1927-28 Hillerich & Bradsby Ty Cobb
Perhaps the most competitive and complex personality ever to appear in a big league uniform, Ty Cobb was the dominant player in the American League during the Deadball Era, and arguably the greatest player in the history of the game. During his 24-year big league career, Cobb captured a record 11 (or 12) batting titles, batted over .400 three times and won the 1909 Triple Crown. Upon his retirement he held career records for games played (3,035), at bats (11,434), runs (2,246), hits (4,189), total bases (5,854), and batting average (.366). Cobb also retired with the twentieth century record for most career stolen bases, with 892.
Adopting an aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of play which mirrored his fiery temperament and abrasive personality, Cobb dominated the game in the batter’s box and on the base paths. At the plate, the 6’1″, 175-pound left-handed swinger often gripped the bat with his hands several inches apart, but usually brought them back together during his swing. A powerful hitter, Cobb led the league in slugging percentage eight times, and paced the circuit in doubles three times and triples four times. Yet he was also a scientific hitter who liked to beat out bunts and infield grounders for base hits. After 1920, Cobb became a passionate defender of the Deadball Era-style of play, derisively mocking the “swing crazy” batters of the modern game who had neglected the inside strategies mastered by the Georgia Peach. (Excerpt from SABR Article by Daniel Ginsburg)
I originally purchased this bat in March of 2008 from a seller who acquired the bat at a thrift store auction in St. Louis in 2007.
This 35 7/8", 41.3 oz club has some key characteristics of a well used bit of Cobb lumber. Key among them, are the numerous cleat marks found scattered about the barrel. Additionally, the bat's near 42 oz weight is represented in Cobb's ordering record for 1927.
Ty Cobb's Hillerich & Bradsby C28 model is indexed at 34 1/2" and I believe the majority of his bats in the hobby are found to be that length. Certainly, at nearly 36", this particular bat is a definite deviation from the norm. In the "Complete Reference Guide to Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats" by Vince Malta, the details of Cobb's bat orders are shared. In that chart, his entry for 1927 references "Model(s) Not Clearly Designated in Shipping Record, as they were chosen by Morrow (H&B employee Henry Morrow)." There is no length listed (listed as n/s", non specified length). Weights listed are 36, 38, 40, and 42 oz. My bat, at 35 7/8" and 41.3 oz would fit an order of unspecified length and 42 oz.
Additionally, the image below provides photographic proof that Cobb had access to longer bats. It just so happens that those longer bats also share this unique "Burnished Finish". The apparent difference in length as well as the unusual finish displayed by two particular bats in the photo is what makes the image a very exciting and important bit of evidence when considering the use of this bat by Tyrus Raymond Cobb.
The photo shown at left remains the single greatest piece of evidence of Cobb having used (or at least having had direct access to) a bat with this burnished finish and length longer than 34 1/2" (at least in theory). The image, taken at Yankee Stadium on April 12, 1927, shows Cobb as he carefully selects his weapon of choice before facing Yankee hurler Waite Hoyt.
The photo below highlights two bats on the ground in front of Cobb. Both of those bats have a virtually identical finish (darkened barrel, tan lower handle, no tape). For modern day bats this would be considered a very strong "style match". Unfortunately there aren't any distinguishable markings on the bats in the photo that are visible on my bat which would make it an exact "photo match".
Also noted in the photo is that the top highlighted bat has a distinct offset in placement. The knob of the 2nd bat appears to be around 2" or so to the left of the knob of the 3rd bat. However, the end of the barrel of the 2nd bat looks to be at least 4" to the left of the end of the barrel of the 3rd bat.
If the 3rd bat was shifted to the left so that the knobs of bat 2 and bat 3 lined up I would expect that the 3rd bat would still be at least 2"-3" longer. If the 2nd bat is a Cobb model presumed to be 34 1/2" in length (as indexed) then the length of the 3rd bat could easily be 35 1/2" to 36 1/2".
This photo shows very clearly that Cobb had direct access to bats with this unique burnished finish, un-taped handles, and lengths believed to be longer than his 34 1/2" index length. The bat was acquired in St. Louis, MO. The Philadelphia Athletics played against the St. Louis Browns in St. Louis in May, July, and August in 1927. It's very possible after a such a long career and many trips to St. Louis that Cobb became friendly with some of the residents there. That he may have gifted the bat to one of the locals toward the end of the 1927 season knowing his career was soon to be coming to an end would not be out of character for Cobb.