Great Bats in History

Josh Hamilton’s bat is dead.

No, I don’t mean his hitting ability, I mean his bat. Literally. It cracked a bit over the weekend. But this was no ordinary bat. It will go down in history as one of the great bats of baseball lore. It hit eight home runs, including four in a game, during one of the greatest weeks in hitting history. Such was it’s reputation that, before being sent to Cooperstown, the Rangers let people pay $5 (to charity) to pose with it on Monday. 

A few things about the bat:

-It’s a H359 Louisville Slugger. It was made to Hamilton’s specifications after he signed an exclusive deal to use the company’s bats. It’s made of M9 maple and is 35 inches long.

-Befitting Hamilton, who credits his religion with helping him defeat the substance abuse that nearly killed him, he has a Bible notation emblazoned upon his bats: Jeremiah 29:11. I looked that up, and here it is-

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

So now that we know of this great baseball bat, what about some of the other great baseball bats in history? Read on to find out about some of them.

Black Betsy

Black Betsy was the favorite bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson. This alone makes it noteworthy. But other things have helped make Betsy one of the most famous bats in baseball history. For one thing, much like Jackson himself, there is some controversy over what, exactly, happened to the real bat. For another, one of the possible candidates for the bat set a record in 2001 for most expensive baseball bat ever sold. There also is some mythology built around it:

-Jackson believed every bat only had so many hits in them, so he ended up discarding most of his bats, except for Betsy, which I guess had unlimited hits in it.

-It apparently lasted his entire career. As in, it didn’t break.

-He apparently kept it until his death, although there were also reports he might have given it to others as a gift.

The Original Louisville Slugger

The beginning of the Louisville Slugger company can be traced back to one player in particular: Pete “Gladiator” Browning. One of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Browning was one of the great hitters of the 19th century, a career .341 hitter who played his early career with his hometown Louisville Eclipse (a great name for a ballclub). According to legend, John Hillerich made a bat for Browning some time in 1884. Once Browning started using it, he broke out  of a slump and used Hillerich’s bats from then on, while also recommending him to his teammates and opponents. The rest, as they say, is history.

The First Sam Bat

Maple bats were in the news a few years ago because of how they break. Ironically, though, the arrival of maple was because it was a stronger wood and doesn’t break as easily. First created by a Canadian carpenter named Sam Holman, the first Sam Bat used in the majors was actually done illegally: Joe Carter used it despite the fact it was unsanctioned by MLB at the time. Maple Bats really caught on after Barry Bonds began to use them, and for a time some people wondered if it was the bat that was leading to his increased home run totals, as opposed to alleged steroid use.

Basically any bat that Babe Ruth used

If Babe Ruth used a bat, it’s special. And probably really expensive. In 2004, for example, the bat he used to hit the first HR in Yankee Stadium sold for $1.3 million.  And one article recently noted that several members of the Orioles touched the Ruth bat held by Baltimore’s Sports Legends museum earlier this year, so of course the museum’s curator has jokingly suggested that that is the reason behind Baltimore’s hot start.

Finally, there is the most mythological baseball bat in history. The Excalibur of baseball: Wonderboy.

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