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1923 Buck Weaver Post-Banishment Side-Written Pro-Model Bat
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $2,015
Exceedingly rare Hillerich & Bradsby pro-model bat (predating model numbers), originally produced for a player named "Carroll," but returned to the H&B factory by Buck Weaver, as noted by the side writing on the barrel. Graded A7.5 by MEARS. This is, to the best of our knowledge, one of only two Buck Weaver pro-model bats extant and the only example dating from his post-banishment playing career. The bat, which dates from the 1921-1930 manufacturing period, features the name "Carroll" stamped on the barrel in block letters. Despite the fact that this bat was originally produced for someone other than Buck Weaver, it can be conclusively placed in Weaver's hands based upon the vintage grease-pencil notation (which appears to be in the hand of longtime H&B factory employee Henry Morrow) printed on the side of the barrel that reads "Buck Weaver 2-23" (it appears that another number precedes the "2," but it is illegible). Remnants of the original mailing label remain affixed to the front barrel, just above the center brand.
Side writing is of great significance to collectors as it places a bat directly into the hands of the player so named. When players returned bats to the factory (to be used as templates for future orders), identifying notations, including the player's name and date received, would be written in grease pencil on the side of the bat by an H&B employee and stored in the vaults for future reference. In that regard, side writing on bats is recognized by the most sophisticated collectors as being the equivalent of having a letter of authenticity directly from the player himself. This bat was sent back to the H&B factory personally by Weaver in 1923 for the express purpose of being archived and used as a template for his future bat orders. While the side writing is extremely important for provenance, it does not, by itself, indicate the year in which this bat was used by Weaver, only the year in which it was returned to the factory. However, the fact that the bat could not have been manufactured before 1921 definitively dates it to Weaver's post-banishment career (the White Sox suspended Weaver indefinitely on September 29, 1920, and was banished from baseball on March 12, 1921). The bat displays heavy use along its entire length, including stitch marks, cleat marks, light dead wood, and an approximate eight-inch "H" crack in the handle.
Buck Weaver is, in many ways, the most tragic figure associated with the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to "throw" the World Series. Weaver always proclaimed his innocence in the affair, noting that his only crime was being in the same room with the other conspirators as they discussed the plot. His batting average of .324 in the World Series certainly supported Weaver's claim that he played to win; however, newly appointed commissioner of baseball Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was not moved. In his public statement announcing the lifetime banishment of the eight conspirators, Landis clearly covered "all the bases" with regard to the criteria he used to arrive at his harsh penalty: "no player that throws a ball game, no player that entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed, and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever again play professional baseball." For Weaver and the other seven players it was tantamount to a death sentence: they would never be allowed to play professionally in organized baseball again.
With their livelihoods taken away from them, most of the "eight men out" were relegated to playing with local semipro clubs or town teams, sometimes under assumed names, in the hopes of making a few dollars on the side. As evidenced by this rare bat, Weaver was still playing ball following his banishment, but the absence of any town listed in the body of the side writing makes it a mystery as to where he was plying his trade. Equally enigmatic is the identification of "Carroll." MEARS has speculated that this bat was originally ordered by Charles "Chuck" Carroll, a career minor leaguer who played between the years 1910 and 1929. While it is certainly possible, a more likely candidate might be Dixie Carroll. Carroll played only one season in the major leagues (1919 with the Braves), but he also enjoyed a long minor-league career that spanned the years 1910 through 1929. Unfortunately, our research has failed to discover when Charles Carroll was born, or his height and weight. However, Dixie Carroll was only one year younger than Weaver and his height (5' 11") and weight (165) compared favorably to that of Weaver (5' 11" and 170). The fact that both men were almost physically identical makes it more probable that they would prefer bats of similar length and weight. Also, Dixie Carroll, who spent a number of years in the Pacific Coast League, was a much better player than Charles Carroll, who toiled for nearly two decades playing for Class C and D clubs. It stands to reason that Weaver would associate more frequently with a player of Dixie Carroll's caliber rather than Charles Carroll, even if it only involved barnstorming during the off-season. Although we do not know how many minor-league players were personally ordering bats in the 1920s, it also seems more probable that a topflight player like Dixie Carroll would have been more apt to place such an order than a low-level minor leaguer. Lastly, Weaver also played in the PCL prior to his major league career and the two may have had mutual acquaintances. Regardless of which "Carroll" originally ordered this bat, we know that Buck Weaver liked it and made a point of personally shipping it back to the H&B factory to have similar bats made for him. Length: 35.5 inches. Weight: 34.5 ounces. Graded A7.5 by MEARS (5 point base grade, plus 3 points for use and 2 points for the side writing, but minus a half point for the handle crack and another 2 points for the fact that the bat was not originally issued to Weaver). Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $2,015
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