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Lot # 1391 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1916-1917 "Black Betsy" Bat Attributed to Joe Jackson

Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $18,800

Black Betsy, the nickname affectionately given by Joe Jackson to the two-toned bat he favored for most of his career, is so central to the legend of "Shoeless Joe" that even the most casual of fans is familiar with the term. Few collectors, however, are familiar with the actual bat outside of photos, as only a small number have survived the ages. Offered is one of the finest of those few surviving examples dating from the two-year period 1916-1917, when Jackson was a member of the Chicago White Sox. Because there are basically no available H&B records predating 1920, and the fact that Jackson's name is not stamped on the barrel (there is no barrel stamping as this is how Jackson's "Black Betsy" models were produced), MEARS has conservatively graded and evaluated this bat as a "Black Betsy" bat with attribution to Joe Jackson. When all of the information regarding this bat is looked at in total, however, the evidence is very compelling that this is indeed a bat produced for use exclusively by Joe Jackson during the referenced labeling period. MEARS has spent a great deal of time researching this bat and has produced a comprehensive three-page letter fully documenting every salient feature of it, especially as it relates to other verifiable Joe Jackson pro-model bats. In addition, MEARS has also written a comprehensive article further explaining all of the methods involved in its analysis, complete with numerous supporting photos. Because of the tremendous amount of information contained within the LOA and the article, most of which cannot be fully conveyed within the limited confines of this catalog, we urge all prospective bidders to access both online at the MEARS site. LOA: Article: Anyone not accessing and fully understanding those reports will be at a distinct disadvantage when bidding. The following paragraphs, taken from the article written by MEARS president Troy Kinunen, help to summarize his findings:

The following item is a 1916-17 Louisville Slugger Black Betsy model bat which is identical with respect to model, style, finish, and consistent in regards to length and weight of other MEARS examined bats manufactured (H&B and Spalding) to be used by Shoeless Joe Jackson during his playing days with the Chicago White Sox. The style, model, and finish have been photographically documented as being used by Joe Jackson. Although absent of a name on barrel, we could confirm the manufacturing characteristics with respect to bats used by Joe Jackson by comparing this example to the circa 1911 Joe Jackson vault mark bat (J13) and store model bats which were made available to the hobby during the same relative time frame. Vault marked examples can serve as factory records as it is known that future bats were manufactured from the archived vault marked examples.

Due to its unique features, mainly consisting of black betsy finish and blank barrel, this bat is being evaluated as a Black Betsy style/model bat that was one type used by Joe Jackson. Without a player’s name appearing on the centerbrand, absolute attribution cannot be made to a player, but I believe it to be the model used by Joe Jackson as it compares quite favorably to three other documented examples. Therefore, we are evaluating the bat as type of model it was manufactured as. There are no known catalogs, records, or ledgers showing other players being offered the Black Betsy model bat in these dimensions with a blank barrel, but it is possible. We do know that other players did use bats with the black betsy finish, but those examples were found with the players name stamped on the barrel. Three documented examples of Black Betsy bats have entered the hobby. All three examined by MEARS were found to be originally manufactured as a blank barrel. Therefore, I feel it is proper to attribute this bat as being the correct model in regards to style, length, weight, finish, and barrel end as a bat preferred and used by Joe Jackson. There is no proof currently known which explains the introduction of blank barreled black betsy bats for player use, but then again, no other bat was as unique to the sport and so closely associated to one player. Its uniqueness caused this bat to be referred to by its own name, Black Betsy. This may account for the reason no player’s name was added to the barrel, as it wasn’t needed for the purpose of identification, as its color and model were unique enough.

In conclusion, although not supported by detailed and complete factory records, which no bats from this era are, the use of both imagery and trend analysis, the understanding of manufacturing specifications, the fact that this bat matches the known store model Joe Jackson bats in regards to model and finish, favorable photographic comparisons, and manufacturing and player specifications consistent with three documented examples, we are able to evaluate this bat as a 1916-17 Black Betsy bat attributed to the model used by Shoeless Joe Jackson. The lack of player’s name is the source for our attribution to Joe Jackson as opposed to clearly identifying
as such.

This bat originates directly from the Louisville Slugger vaults and the side writing indicates that it was returned to the factory by pitcher Jack Warhop (only the name is legible, no date or team affiliation). Although Warhop returned it to the factory, given the bat's specifications, as detailed by MEARS, it is a virtual certainty that this specially produced "Black Betsy" bat, that could be recognized as Joe Jackson's famous "Black Betsy" at a glance as easily in 1916 and 1917 as today, was produced for Joe Jackson. The bat displays heavy use along its entire length, including deeply embedded ball and stitch marks, and dead wood on the back of the barrel. (Dead wood is a positive trait resulting from repetitive contact with pitched balls.) An approximate four-inch crack in the handle and a tiny chip in the knob have been professionally repaired. Graded A9.5 by MEARS (5 point base grade, plus 3 points for use and 2 points for player traits/matching specifications of other Jackson bats, but minus a half point for the chip in the knob [which, along with the handle crack, was professionally repaired after MEARS' examination]). LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000++. SOLD FOR $18,800

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