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Circa 1928 Unique Hanna Batrite Pitcher - Early Pitching Machine - Ty Cobb Endorsed?
Starting Bid - $500.00, Sold For - $711.00
While the word "rare" is liberally used in the hobby when describing many types of memorabilia, that term would actually be a huge understatement when referencing this unique relic. Offered here is the Batrite Pitcher, produced by the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, Georgia. This is the first example of this early batting aid that we have ever seen and we have never even heard of the existence of another. The piece, constructed of wood and metal, stands five feet, nine inches tall and is comprised of a long center wooden pole, a front wooden shield, and a metal coil that attaches to a circular, metal swivel at the top. Originally, the metal coil would have been attached to a long rope holding a baseball at its end. The front of the shield has a partially torn paper label that features the "Batrite" logo, below which is printed "Pitcher/pat. Applied For/Manufactured By/The Hanna MFG. Co/Athens, GA." While looking at this piece today it might be hard to envision its exact use, but luckily, portions of its two original paper instruction sheets remain affixed to the reverse of the shield. The first provides written instructions on its use. Although age has made some of the text difficult to read, most of it is still clearly legible. In part:
The Batrite Pitcher is designed for both practice and play. Of immense value in perfecting the batting eye, correcting faults in stance and overcoming other batting defects of players - both sandlot and professional - it is also a practical playing machine. . . . A wonderfully amusing and exercise-producing game, requiring only two contestants and a space some thirty feet in diameter. The operation is simple - grasp the upright directly behind the shield with one hand and line with ball attached in the other; commence swinging the ball in a circle letting out the line as the ball gains momentum until fully extended. Continue the momentum by circling the top of the Pitcher, holding the bottom stationary by means of the foot-plate - then let the batter do his stuff! With a few minutes practice one soon learns the various tricks of throwing fast or slow, low or high balls and curve the edge of the plate. A real healthful and diverting game for Dad and the boys, and necessary practice equipment for those taking baseball more [seriously].
The second instruction sheet provides a visual of the Batrite Pitcher in action and includes a photo of a uniformed player hitting a ball that was "pitched" by a gentleman holding the device. Unfortunately, all of the text below the picture has been torn away over time. What is most interesting with regard to the demonstration photo is that the uniformed ballplayer depicted appears to be none other than "The Georgia Peach" himself, Ty Cobb. While the flaws affecting the demonstration photo do not allow for a positive facial identification, the stance and grip of the player pictured are similar to those displayed by Cobb in various batting photos (collectors can judge for themselves by viewing the close-up photos online). Cobb's endorsement of this device is certainly possible, and even quite probable, given what we know. That Cobb had an established business relationship with the Hanna Manufacturing Company is clearly evident through the company's production and sale of Ty Cobb endorsed bats (Ty Cobb Batrite bats are listed in the 1930 Hanna dealer catalog). It also appears that Cobb, like other Major League players in the 1920s and early 1930s (including Lou Gehrig), used Hanna Batrite bats at least on a few occasions during the latter portion of his career (the company began making bats in 1926), because we have seen at least one authenticated Ty Cobb pro-model Hanna Batrite bat at public auction. Lastly, the fact that Cobb was from Georgia (and very proud of his Georgia heritage) only makes it natural that the company would seek his endorsement, and that he would be happy to oblige.
Another aspect of this piece linking it to Cobb is its provenance. This piece was only recently discovered in an old barn located in Augusta, Georgia, the same town in which Ty Cobb lived most of his adult life! Even more coincidental is that our consignor's relatives were friends with Cobb, and he has even provided copies of a few family photos picturing Cobb hunting on his family's farm. While purely conjecture, the fact that the front label makes note that the patent has been applied for might mean that this was a prototype, or one of just a small number of examples produced for testing by the company. If so, maybe Cobb brought it over to his friend's house to try out, or possibly presented them with one as a gift. It seems obvious that the Batrite Pitcher was not a success or we would have seen or heard of another. If this were a prototype or demonstration model, it would certainly explain its extreme rarity today. Like other pieces for which no other example exists, the history of this unique batting trainer will probably always remain a mystery. However, that lack of knowledge, combined with its enigmatic association with Cobb, makes this one of the most remarkable conversation pieces imaginable. When one combines that with its historical significance as an early baseball-pitching machine, this newly discovered relic is one of the most unusual and interesting baseball memorabilia finds we have come across in recent years. The Pitcher displays wear commensurate with its age and former use, including partial tearing to the fragile paper labels on the front and reverse of the shield, and rusting to the metal components. Only a tiny portion of the original rope remains connected to the top coil, and the footplate at the base of the pole (mentioned in the instructions) is no longer present. The bottom portion of the pole displays both loss of wood and chipping, which is consistent with its former use. Despite the flaws, the piece has held up quite well and is in overall Very Good condition, with hardly any major flaws to the wooden or metal components. The substantial size/weight of this item requires that there will be a shipping charge for this lot (which will vary depending upon where it is being shipped). The shipping charge will be billed separately from the auction invoice. Reserve $500 Estimate (open).
SOLD FOR $711.00
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