Get ready for a sneaky peek into the baseball bats history spanning over a period of 150 years. Baseball bats have surely, come a long way to acquire the shape and size they feature today. Read on, to know more about the history of baseball bats.
Though it takes a bat, a ball and a diamond shaped field to play baseball, baseball bats seldom bask in the limelight. Not quite surprising as the player who hits the home run is far more important than the bat used to hit that home run. Even people who are well versed with the origin and history of baseball seldom seek information about baseball bats history which is as interesting as the history of the sport in itself.
Baseball Bats History
Baseball bats have come a long way from the crude hand made bats of the 1800’s, when the sport was in its development phase, to more advanced wooden and metal alloy bats that are made with machines, used today. During the development phase of the game, the players experimented with their bats, so as to make them more user friendly. Read more on baseball history.
Initial Experiments with Baseball Bats
By the beginning of 1850’s, players had realized the fact that using a round baseball bat enhanced their ability to hit the ball. The next helpful discovery was the modification of the shape of the bat, with thinner handle, to provide better grip, and broad barrel, to increase the surface area so as to connect the ball better. Over the following years, most of the payers started using rounded bats with a broad barrel, though some still preferred their traditional counterparts. This experiments pertaining to the shape, size and wood used to make the baseball bats continued till 1859, when the first rule about the size of the bat came into existence.
First Rule about the Diameter of the Baseball Bats
The first proper rule regarding the size of the baseball bat was introduced by the Professional National Association of Baseball Players Governing Committee in 1859. According to this rule, the player was allowed to use a bat of any length, however, the diameter of the bat at its broadest point was restricted to 2.5 inches. This was just the beginning of many rules that followed. The players continued experimenting with the bat, keeping the 2.5 inches diameter in the mind. In early 1860’s, some players started to wrap a coil around the handle of the bat, which resulted in better grip, and thus harder hits. The idea became quite popular, and by 1864, most of the baseball bats were customized to suit the rules of the governing body and requirements of the players.
First Rule Restricting the Length of the Baseball Bat
In the year 1869, exactly 10 years after the first rule pertaining to the breadth of the bat was adopted, a new rule pertaining to the length of the baseball bat was introduced. According to this rule, the length of the bat was limited to a maximum of 42 inches. This was one of the foremost rules of baseball which is in practice even today. These rules pertaining to the length and the breadth of the baseball bats played a vital role in the present shape of baseball bats. The only other modification to follow during that period was the introduction of a knob at the handle as a successful attempt to provide a better grip.
The Louisville Slugger
The year 1884 saw the introduction of The Louisville Slugger – the famous bat manufacturer, who took the world of baseball by surprise by becoming the most sought after manufacturer by renowned Major League players. The credit for this goes to John Hillerich, who triggered the wave of fame by making a bat for Louisville player Pete Browning. What followed was the fame for this 17 year old lad, who made baseball bat manufacturing his family business.
Changes in Baseball Bats: New Diameter and Rounded Base
In 1890’s a couple of new rules pertaining to the size and shape of baseball bats came into existence, while the existing rule of 2.5 inches diameter was modified to 2.75 inches. The new rule added to the rule book also stressed on the requirement of rounded base, contrary to the flat base made by sawing the bottom. Though the first baseball bat made from metal was patented by William Shroyer in 1924, it took another 50 years for these alloy bats to replace wooden baseball bats. History of baseball bats was re-written when maple wood replaced White ash as the prominent choice of wood when Barry Bonds hit a record 73 home runs with his new bat made from maple wood in 2001.