Heinie's Bottle Bat & 1920's Baseball
March 03 2014 / By:
Heinie Grohs' unusual bottle bat was the largest made. The barrel was 2 3/4 inches beyond the trademark and tapered sharply to the handle. In 1919, Groh was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. This was the year that he, along with his famous bottle bat, finished fourth in batting in the National League. His average was .310.
Also in 1919, the thunder from pitcher Babe Ruth's' bat could be heard when he hit 29 home runs for the Boston Red Sox to lead the American League. He was purchased by the New York Yankees from Boston before the 1920 season for $125,000. Ruth, now playing the outfield, used a Louisville Slugger Model R-43 with a medium barrel, 36 inches in length and weighing 42 ounces. Babe Ruth, often called "Bambino", hit 54 home runs in 1920 and 59 in 1921.
Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swat", brought fans back to the game of baseball by the thousands. The Babe launched an amazing home run career, including belting 60 home runs in 1927. One of Ruth's bats with 21 notches around the trademark is on display at the Hillerich and Bradsby plant. Ruth would carve one notch for each homer hit. It is easy to picture Babe Ruth stepping up to home plate, taking his stance and, with a slight wave of the bat, ready to hit. What was it like pitching to him? Like looking into the jaws of a lion!
In the year 1920, we were introduced to "The Father of Black Baseball", Rube Foster. He created the first organized Black Major League known as The Negro National League. Before becoming the best manager in the Negro National League, Rube had been black baseballs' best pitcher for nearly a decade. His personal force and finances were the key to better parks, better attendance and bigger incomes for the once wandering black teams.
While researching, I spoke with my friend Charles "Red" House who played third base for the Homestead Grays and the Detroit Stars. Charles had a good, strong arm and was a fine fielder as well as a real power hitter. During our conversation, House mentioned that most players during his playing career used Louisville Sluggers. He stressed that bats were very important to each player and that they were cared for separately. House also said that U. Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, was responsible for many innovations. One of these innovations featured an ingenious portable lighting system that consisted of placing light poles on the back of trucks. The motivation behind this idea was to draw crowds to games early into the depression years.