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history of baseball bats
Transcript of history of baseball bats
Origins of early baseball bats
Baseball bats came in all shapes and sizes in the early days of its origin. In the 1850's baseball was a young sport where batters made their own bats and experimented with bats of all varieties (long, short, flat, heavy). They soon learned that bats with rounded barrels worked the best. Bats of all shapes and sizes were being used at the start, but a rule was made in 1859 that bats could be no larger than 2.5 inches in diameter. At that time they could still be any length, but ten years later in 1869, another rule was added that they could be no longer than 42 inches in length. This is the same maximum length allowed today. During these years there was no rule regarding the shape of the bat. In fact, some players sometimes used bats with flat surfaces for bunting.
The Birth of the Louisville Slugger
1884 brought the beginning of the most famous name in baseball bats today, The Louisville Slugger. It all started at a baseball game in Louisville when a 17 year old John Hillerich watched Louisville player Pete Browning become frustrated after breaking his favorite bat. Hillerich, who was a woodworker with his father, approached Browning after the game and offered to make him a new bat. They woodworking shop, selected a piece of white ash and Browning watched as John Hillerich made his new bat. The next day, Browning went three for three with the new bat, word spread about the new bats, and the Hillerich family was in the baseball bat business! The demand quickly grew (although baseball bats weren't the focus of their business yet), and soon they started adding their recognizable Louisville Slugger trademark to each bat.
During the 1890's, the rules committee decided that bats could no longer be sawed off (flat) at the end, they must be round, and the maximum diameter was increased to 2.75 inches. Shortly after 1900, Honus Wagner, one of the great players of all time, became the first player to be paid to have his autograph burned into Louisville Slugger bats. Although bats have continued to develop over the years, wood baseball bats today look similar to the bats of 100 years ago. The biggest differences, however are that bats today are much lighter and have thinner handles.
Origins of baseball bats continued
How baseball bats are manufactured
A baseball bat is only as good as the wood it’s made from.The selection process begins with the inspection of the rough timbers. After the kiln drying process, the maple and ash timbers are stacked on stickers, allowing the free movement of air throughout. The temperature is constant and the wood is left to get used to the environment in the shop. The moisture content is brought down to an average of 6 percent before the rough timbers are milled down to rough billet dimensions. Bat BlanksI inspect the wood again, selecting for straight, flat grain, no cathedral or arched grain is used. The grain is then counted 6 to 10 per inch is ideal for pro grade bats. It's then checked for knots as well as knot saddles. These are prone to popping out and many are overlooked by some companies just trying to get any bat out of every billet. Then they would mill each rough billet to the size it will be when it's taken to the lathe. The billets are inspected again, searching for hidden bark pockets, pin knots, and twist. Any billets with these problems and defects are removed. Then each blank is weighed and wood density varies. Even billets of the same weight can yield the same model and length of bat but with a different weight. Once all the blanks are weighed, they are stacked in separate categories, based on the model and length they will become. The next step is the lathe. The latest CNC technology is utilized to take the billet and turn it into the appropriate bat model. There are seven separate profiles, but with the barrel, handle, flare, and knob options available on each one. There are literally over 10,750 bats to choose from. There is absolutely a bat for every hitter!
Once the bat is turned, the next thing to check for is vibration. The lathe weighs over 2700 pounds so any vibration is in the wood itself. Vibration means the bat has a warp and even a slight one is a trip to the scrap pile. Some knots that are not visible show up as vibration and those too, are culled. Next it is hand sanded. Sanding by hand is the best way to get a feel for the life of the bat. Every bat gets sanded to 1200 grit and then hand burnished. Even with no finish yet applied, the bat is now so clear.
Now the bat is pulled from the lathe and the finish is applied. Every bat is sealed with a sealer and a good catalyzed finish which is applied over the stain selected to give each bat its particular color. Lathe2The catalyzed finishes are harder and more durable, enhancing the woods’ own moisture resistant qualities.
After the initial clear coat, the bats are color sanded and taken to the engraver. The logo, the model number the player name and the team name are all engraved on each bat. After engraving, the final clear coats are applied, and the final weight is taken. Your bat is now ready to ship.
Video on How baseball bats are made.
Viewing this video will give you an inside look at how a baseball bat is made.
The advancement in the manufacturing of baseball bats has come along way over time. It has spawned vast changes and improvements through the use of technology. It continues to evolve even to this day.
The Rise of Aluminum Bats
In 1924 a patent was issued to William Shroyer for the first metal baseball bat. Eventhough he got the early patent, metal bats were not seen in the game of baseball until 1970. When Worth introduced the games first aluminum baseball bat and little league bat, it was produced in one-piece. Easton arrived on the aluminum bat scene in the late 1970's with a stronger grade of aluminum that increased the popularity of aluminum baseball bats. Despite the popularity of the bats with the baseball players nationwide, Major League Baseball (for competitive and safety reasons) has never allowed anything other than wood bats to be used. In 1993 Worth and Easton both introduced Titanium bats, and in 1995 Easton and Louisville Slugger introduced the strongest, lightest grade of aluminum bats to date. The improvements to baseball bats continue to this today as developments such as double walled bats and scandium-aluminum bats arrive in sporting goods stores. Today's high-end, scientifically designed aluminum bats are a far distant relative to the heavy, hickory bats used by players nearly 150 years ago!
2001 - Barry Bonds and Maple Bats
The 2001 baseball season brought about something that 10 years ago most would have thought impossible and ridiculous. Barry Bonds hit a record 73 home runs in one single season! Soon into his home run streak it was learned that Bonds was using maple wood baseball bats, rather than the standard bats made of white ash. Players wanted to copy in his success, and soon major league ball players everywhere were searching for maple baseball bats! A quick search online will find dozens of companies selling maple bats. The past 150 years has brought significant changes to baseball bats and the game of baseball itself. There is no doubt that the future will bring about even more changes to the seemingly simple tool we know as the baseball bat.