The Booming Bats of the 50's Commemorative Collection include special
bats from Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Stan
Bats' of the 50's qualify as Grade "A10"
DEM BUMS: Among the many groupings that this collection
of bats afford, above is five members of the "Boys of Summer,"
including Hall of Famers Duke
Snider and Pee Wee Reese.
Also pictured is Gil Hodges'
stick, who should be, but isn't, in the Hall
rediscovery of 42 Major League game-used bats from the '50's leads
to nation-wide research pilgrimage
The discovery of a collection of game-used bats
in the possession of our family for over 50 years was one of the motivating
factors to develop WIWAG.
As we pulled each bat from the old refrigerator
box in our parents’ garage, we realized that what was just a
discarded tool of the baseball trade - and potential
decoration for The Original Sports Bar in the
early '50s - had taken on an
entirely different significance in the new millennium.
We traveled the country to visit newspaper archives and used the internet
as a vehicle to learn more about the true value of our find,
and most of the “experts” in the field of sports memorabilia
sought us out. The offers for the collection,
sight unseen, boggled our minds, alerted us to
the potential worth of the collection and
motivated us to very deliberately research this
relatively new phenomenon of authenticating and
collecting game-used Major League bats.
learned that over the past few years there has
been a meteoric rise in interest in the collecting
of game-used bats. It turns out that
there is a fairly closed network of only a handful
experts who developed the authentication guidelines
for this new industry. These experts are
often aligned or affiliated with various sports
memorabilia dealers and auctioneers, as well
as bat manufacturing companies.
When we initially called Louisville Slugger for information on bat labeling
and dating, we were told that they would not deal directly with us for
any information about our bats and referred us to an individual who was
purported to be the world expert in the field of bat authentication. Louisville
Slugger’s bat authentication consultant did, indeed, turn out to
be incredibly knowledgeable, the author of the definitive reference for
collecting game-used bats, and very willing to evaluate our entire collection
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Among the Booming Bats
of the 50's Commemorative Collection are 16 members of the 1955
National League all-star team.
However, the fee for each individual bat authentication ranged from $75
for the no-name players to hundreds of dollars on a sliding scale depending
on the estimated worth of the bat for the all-stars and Hall of Famers.
With rare and historic significance attributable to incredibly valuable
bats like Hank Aaron’s and
Stan Musial’s, we thought
it would be nonsensical and unnecessary to pay someone to establish what
we believe is inherent in the history and story of the Booming
Bats of the 50s.
Despite our frustration with our initial contact and dealings with Louisville
Slugger, we persisted. Our second contact with Louisville Slugger
led us to a real expert at Hillerich and Bradsby, and the most delightful
person you could ever meet. Karen Devoto, Louisville Slugger's historian,
has worked for Hillerich and Bradsby for 35 years. She holds the key to
all information pertaining to player’s bat contracts, model numbers
and cross-referencing of bat shipping records. With her patient and gracious
assistance we were able to verify specific model numbers, contract time-lines
and shipping information for the Louisville Slugger Booming Bats of
the 50s. Anyone interested in the first-hand, fascinating history
of the nuances of professional ball players and their bats must make a
pilgrimage to Louisville and visit with Karen. We are profoundly grateful
for her kind and cheerful cooperation on this labor of love that is WIWAG.
Using the accepted guidelines and criteria established
by the experts in the industry, the bats would
qualify as Grade A10 based on the following:
production details of each bat meets the model and proper labeling for
the period between 1953 and 1955.
- All Louisville
Sluggers’ authenticity verified by information provided by the official
Louisville Slugger historian using contract, model number and shipping
- Physical characteristics of each bat show significant signs of use and
other traits attributable to the player.
- All of the bats, except for Musial's (see Stan
Musial profile), were cracked during use by the player. All exhibit
ball and stitch marks on the barrel. (For example, the Duke
Snider bat, with Roman lace tape on handle, exhibits traits specific
to that player).
The bats’ overall appearance remains unchanged
since last used by said players over 50 years ago. These bats were hung
by loop string around the knobs and displayed in The
Original Sports Bar at the time of their acquisition between 1953
and 1955 until the tavern was sold in 1966. They were then packed up in
a refrigerator box and stored until rediscovered (see
Discovery Story) in November of 2004. Any wear and tear that they
exhibit is due to the usual jostling of three major residential moves
over the period of 1965 through 2004.
All of these bats have unquestionable
provenance and history with an unbroken/traceable
chain of ownership. Each bat was brought to Vincent “Jimmy” Palermo,
the proprietor of the Palermo family tavern located
at 3701 Sullivan across from old Busch Stadium
(Sportsman’s Park) in St. Louis, by Freddie Buchholz, the batboy for
the Browns and Cardinals from 1950 to 1955. (See sidebar at right).
At Jimmy's request, Freddie started bringing broken bats from the
Browns (through the end of the 1953 season) and Cardinal games over to the
in the 1953 season to adorn the walls of the Original Sports Bar.
It's important to remember that in that era of baseball, a broken bat was
just that: a broken piece of wood that was routinely discarded not
a piece of
bats fit perfectly into the sports bar motif of Palermo's Tavern).
The bats sparked a considerable amount of interest from the tavern’s
clientele, so Jimmy started a chronicle documenting the player and the date
each bat was received to be able to speak to his customer’s inquiries
The Palermo’s have owned and had
all of these bats in their possession continuously since
their acquisition between 1953 and 1955.
We have used the Booming Bats of the 50s as a platform for a
nostalgic look back at WHEN IT WAS A GAME. Yes, this rare and unique Major
League group of game-used bats, which serendipitously includes possibly
the earliest preserved Hank Aaron bat in existence, is probably worth
a small fortune. However, to a family like ours to which baseball has
been an integral thread of our existence and identity, it is priceless.
BASEBALL LEGENDS: The Booming Bats
of the 50's Commemorative Collection includes special bats from Hall
of Famers Hank Aaron and Stan
Musial. Above (Musial) and below (Aaron) are representative samples
of hand-written running ledgers from Louisville Slugger which chronologically
list the model numbers, length, weight and other personal specifications
of bats used during their careers.