1923-25 Hillerich & Bradsby Edd Roush
Known as one of the feistiest players in baseball history, Edd Roush channeled that energy into a Hall of Fame career. An old-timer was quoted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1919 saying that Roush was more like the fiery old Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s than any other player in the National League. The observer stressed Roush’s versatility and his knack at doing the unexpected when it would help the most. John McGraw, in a similar vein, once said, “that Hoosier moves with the indifference of an alley cat.” Pat Moran claimed that “all that fellow has to do is wash his hands, adjust his cap and he’s in shape to hit. He’s the great individualist in the game.” Roush led his team, the Cincinnati Reds, to the World’s Championship in 1919.
A left-handed hitter with a lifetime average of .323 in 18 seasons, Edd Roush was the best place hitter in the National League toward the end of the Deadball Era, winning batting championships in 1917 and 1919 and finishing second in 1918. “Some batters, and good ones too, scoff at the whole theory of place hitting, calling it a myth,” he said. “They are wrong, however.”
Roush wielded a short, thick-handled bat that weighed 48 ounces, one of the heaviest ever in baseball. He snapped the bat at the ball with his arms and placed line drives to all parts of the field by shifting his feet after the ball left the pitchers hand and altering the timing of his swing. “Place hitting is in a sense glorified bunting,” he said. “I only take a half swing at the ball, and the weight of the bat rather than my swing is what drives it.”
On defense center fielder Roush combined excellent speed with an ability to turn his back on the baseball and run to the spot where it would drop to earth. Edd was considered by many to be the premier defensive outfielder of the National League during the Deadball era. He was often compared defensively with Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. (Excerpt from SABR Article by Jim Sandoval)
This Edd Roush signature model Hillerich & Bradsby has quickly become one of the favorites in my collection. The excellent overall condition, optimal weight, and honey colored patina, make it both a prime Roush example as well as a sight to behold.
Edd Roush was well known for using short, heavy bats. His orders typically ranged from 43oz - 48oz with most being 45oz+. This example is 33 1/8" and it tips the scales at 45oz. This model was known as "His Model - half round end". It eventually would be known as the model R36. Index length was 33". For this labeling period (1923-25) his ordered bats were noted to be 45oz-46oz in 1923 and L/W (light weight) for 1925. No orders are available for 1924 due to the missing log book. Other orders of the same model for 1923 were the same length and weight but called for a darker "cuban" finish. All things considered, there's a good chance this bat is from 1923.
Roush's 1923 season wasn't overly spectacular. It would be more aptly described as "business as usual" for the 30 year old. He played in 138 games, scored 88 runs, and had 185 hits. His 185 hits were the 2nd greatest hit output of his career. Only 1920 was better when he had 196 hits. Of those 185 knocks, he had 41 doubles (a career high), 18 triples, and 6 home runs. His .351 average fell only a single point behind his career best mark of .352 set in 1921 and matched in 1922.
This bat is the 2nd Roush bat I've owned. The other was a 1925-28 Hillerich & Bradsby that was a bit rougher condition-wise, had a newer style signature endorsement on the barrel, and was much lighter. If I remember correctly, that bat was 34" and weighed around 36oz - 38oz. It was sold several years ago and I have not seen it surface since. Of all the bats I've owned in the past and then sold, that was one that for awhile I wished I had back.
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.