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Baseball Bat History

Bob Spencer
 


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When Baseball Bats were first introduced they were available in all different shapes and sizes and were constructed of wood. In the mid 1800's baseball was a relatively young sport and baseball batters actually made their own bats and experimented readily with different options. They were interested in the different lengths, shapes, and weights. During this particular time in history, players experimented with different kinds of wood for their bats in order to improve their hitting ability. They soon realized that Wagon Tongue wood was the best for making baseball bats. While the transition to Wagon Tongue wood was taking place, players also realized they could hit a ball much more solidly with a round bat. While some players continued to make their own bats, others had their bats made by a wood maker. Within the next four or five years, the round bat became very popular. All baseball players were using a round Wagon Tongue bat and the only flat surface bat on any team was used strictly for bunting. The round-bat had definitely taken over.

Because of all the varied sizes and shapes available, a new regulation was put in place in 1859 by the Professional National Association of Baseball Players Governing Committee that voted in favor of the first limitation on bat size that stated bats could no longer be larger than 2.5 inches in diameter, although they could be of any length. Ten years later in 1869, another rule was added that stated the baseball bat could be no longer than 42 inches in length, the same maximum length allowed in the game today. At this time there was no rule regarding the shape of the bat. In fact, some players sometimes used bats with flat surfaces when bunting.

While the different players had a chance to digest the new rule of bats, the various woodworkers were trying to manufacture the most popular bat. In 1879, after considerable experimenting with various styles, it was said that long and slender is the common style of bats. In addition, the handle had a carved knob for better control. Times have changed with the evolution of new baseball bat materials. In fact, wood bats are rare at most levels other than the pros. The majority of wood baseball bats today are made from northern white ash harvested from Pennsylvania or New York. White ash is used because of its hardness, durability, strength, weight and feel. Trees that provide the lumber for baseball bats are often 50 years old, and of all the lumber harvested, the top 10 per cent is saved for pro bats. Maple baseball bats have recently become popular largely as a result of Barry Bond's amazing 73 home runs hit using maple bats in 2001. For years, maple was too heavy to make an effective bat. Recent technology in drying wood has created bats with lower moisture content, which are light enough to make effective baseball bats. Rock or Sugar Maple bats are preferred. Maple bats cost more than white ash, but they often last longer as a result of their high strength. Several companies have recently introduced bamboo baseball bats. Since bamboo shoots are hollow, unlike a standard tree that a wood bat is made of, bamboo bats are made by pressing bamboo strips into billets, and then turning these billets into bats. Bamboo is an extremely strong wood, with a tensile strength greater than that of steel.

The introduction of aluminum baseball bats in the 1970's forever changed the game of baseball at every level but the professional leagues. Aluminum bats are lighter, stronger and can hit a baseball significantly further than wooden bats. This is a result of not only lighter bats, but also the trampoline effect that occurs when a ball hits an aluminum bat. As time has progressed, so has the technology put into aluminum bats. Aluminum in bats today is aircraft grade and as scientists have developed stronger alloys, they have used them to make bats both stronger and lighter. Budget aluminum bats can be purchased for a nominal price but are made of aluminum that is significantly weaker than the high end bats. In recent years, bat makers have introduced innovations such as the double-wall bats (containing a wall within a wall), carbon fiber bats, and bats that use a cryogenic manufacturing process. Some of the super high end bats are so thin that they only last a few games before they are literally dented out of shape! Graphite and Titanium lined aluminum bats are another recent addition to the industry. Graphite and titanium are both lightweight and strong, allowing for increased swing speed and larger sweet spots on the bats.

Baseball Bats have a significant and interesting story and these very tools of the game have made Baseball the very favorite pastime that it is today.

Bob Spencer

http://www.baseballbatshop.com

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