02-25-2014 / By:
As the years progressed, J.F. Hillerich and Son introduced still another innovative idea involving their bats and Honus Wagner. In 1905, Wagner, the shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, became the first player ever to sign a contract with Hillerich to have his autograph burned into the wood of the barrel of his Louisville Slugger. Tyrus Cobb, centerfielder for the Detroit Tigers, was another player who also began his illustrious reign in baseball with a Louisville Slugger in his hand. Often called "The Georgia Peach", Cobb was one of baseballs' greatest players. He was a fierce competitor with a lifetime batting average of .367. Honus Wagner, one of the greatest all-around players, broke into the Majors hitting .344. Called "The Flying Dutchman" , Wagner was considered the best shortstop ever to play that position. Did you know that these two great players used the same style bat? Both bats had a large barrel with tapered, thick handle. Cobb was one of the last players to use the once popular split-handed grip. He also taught this special technique to Tris Speaker and to Heinie Manush of the Detroit Tigers..
Frank Baker, another advocate of the Louisville Slugger, played third base for Connie Mack in his $100,000 infield. Bakers' 2 home runs in the 1911 World Series were game winners and led to his nickname "Home Run" Baker. Frank was The Home Run King in the American League for four consecutive years. He topped his career with 12 in 1913. Jack McGrath, off Hillerich and Bradsby, evaluated Bakers' bat by commenting, "Baker used a bat antiquated even in his time". The handle was almost the size of the barrel. It was short but almost like a piece of lead because it weighed fifty-two ounces. There was no flex. It really was a ‘wagon tongue’..
J . F. Hillerich and Son are busy again with still another of their now famous innovations. This time, they developed the new cork grip handle for their bats. This feature was patented on September 15, 1914. I currently have in my possession J. F. Hillerich and Son Louisville Slugger Model 40K, autographed by Joe Jackson. This bat was given to my father because he hit a home run to win a very important game.
Now let us travel back into history as I grip the thick cork handle of the 33 inch, 38 ounce 40K Slugger. Let us imagine major league players such as Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth in the on deck circle, preparing to approach home plate and settle into their stance.