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Lot # 3 (3 of 13)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1919-1922 "Shoeless Joe" Jackson "Black Betsy" Pro-Model Bat - PSA/DNA GU 8 and MEARS A10

Reserve - $50,000. Estimate - (open).

Great Additional Information Regarding Lot #3: 1919-1922 "Shoeless Joe" Jackson "Black Betsy" Bat relating to its past sale and offering history, and additional information from PSA/DNA Bat Authenticator John Taube, can be found at this special link:


Presented is perhaps the single greatest bat we have ever had the privilege of offering: Joe Jackson's "Black Betsy." The rarity of an authentic Joe Jackson bat cannot be overstated. According to both John Taube of PSA/DNA and Troy Kinunen of MEARS, this is one of only six Joe Jackson game-used bats in private hands known to exist. Of these six, three date from 1910 to 1916 and three (including this example) date from 1917 to 1921. Of the three dating from 1917 to 1921, only two are "Black Betsy" models. All of these Jackson bats are worthy of Hall of Fame display, but the 1917 to 1921 models naturally hold a special distinction. This very bat could have been used by Joe Jackson during the 1919 World Series! While the exact year (or years) of use cannot be known with certainty (this is rarely possible; the extraordinary side-written Joe Jackson rookie bat that recently sold at auction for $956,000 was a unique exception), we do know from photographs that this very style bat was used by Jackson in 1919, so it is a distinct possibility. At the very least, this is one of only four game-used Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bats currently known in the entire collecting world. It is the highest graded of all 1917-1921 Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bats, the only example of its type we have ever had the privilege of offering (over the past forty years), and in virtually all ways it is the equivalent (in some ways superior, with reference to condition and dating) to the iconic side-written Joe Jackson rookie bat that is universally recognized (with good reason) as one of, if not the most, important and significant Joe Jackson game-used item in existence. The fact that this is a Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bat - the model Jackson is known for and that is visually so distinctive with its two-tone finish - and the fact that this bat dates from circa 1919 - define this bat as worthy of museum display. Joe Jackson will always be associated with his famous blank-barrel "Black Betsy" model bat. This is the ultimate example of Joe Jackson's weapon of choice dating precisely to the "Black Sox" era.

Outstanding Joe Jackson H&B "Black Betsy" pro-model bat (predating model numbers) dating from the 1919-1922 manufacturing period. Graded GU 8 by PSA/DNA and A10 by MEARS. "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.

Because most of Jackson's "Black Betsy" bats did not feature his name on the barrel (period photos of Jackson holding his "Black Betsy" bats support that assertion), the attribution of any blank barrel "Black Betsy" bat to Joe Jackson is determined by a comparison of it to other pro-model examples known to have been used by him during his ten-year career. By that method, the offered bat is VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL to what is generally regarded as the finest Joe Jackson pro-model bat in the hobby: a 1911 side-written and vault-marked example graded GU 9.5 by PSA/DNA that just recently sold at public auction for $956,000 (Note: The side-written Joe Jackson rookie bat was also a blank barrel bat, with the stamped block lettering name identification added when it was returned to H&B, after it was retired from game use, at the factory for filing purposes).

In his accompanying LOA, John Taube of PSA/DNA specifically compares that previously examined GU 9.5 example, as well as two other Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" pro-model bats in the company's database, to the offered bat. He even includes photos of the vault-marked Jackson bat in his accompanying LOA for this bat because the two compare so favorably. In part:

We have noted the model number of the bat to be J13. Though no model number appears on the bat, the handle, knob, and barrel dimensions conform to the vault marked and side written J13 Joe Jackson bat that appears in our database (see attached). Additionally, the length of the bat matches the vault marked J13 and the weight at 40.1 ounces today is in the range of weights of the three Jackson bats noted below. The dimensions as well as the "Black Betsy" finish also duplicate three Joe Jackson professional model bats in our database.

Taube further adds, later in his letter, that "The J13 model is rather unique. It was not a widely used model among major league players. The model features an extremely thick handle, which was a favorite of Jackson's." MEARS also notes that the offered bat conforms in every way to those known to have been used by Joe Jackson. In part: "Even though this is not a signature model nor does the bat directly identify Joe Jackson in any way, it is the type, style, size, weight, model, and color of the exact bat that would have been used by Joe Jackson during his playing days as a member of the Chicago White Sox." Furthermore, MEARS comments that it was very likely that Jackson "used bats with no name stamped on them. We have seen dozens of photos of Jackson with his Black Betsy bat, yet we have never seen photos where you could see a stamped name. Again, this is photographically documented."

PSA/DNA, also states with certainty that Jackson's unique J13 Black Betsy model bats were issued without his name on the barrel. In part:

We have examined a photograph of Joe Jackson (Attached) pictured with three Black Betsy models absent of a player name on the barrel. Jackson's J13 vault marked and side written bat was also manufactured with a blank barrel. Jackson's name was applied at a later date, when the bat was originally vault marked by the Louisville Slugger factory. With this in mind, it is safe to say that it was not uncommon for Jackson to use bats that did not bare his name.

One other important aspect that both PSA/DNA and MEARS emphasize in their respective letters is that aside from Jackson, few other major league players used a "Black Betsy" bat, and of those who did, their bat specifications (size, weight, knob, barrel dimensions, etc.) were noticeably different from Jackson's. According to PSA/DNA, "The 'Black Betsy' finish, though not unique to Jackson, was very rare on professional players' bats. Two players that come to mind are Hank Gowdy and Chick Gandil. Both of those players did not use the J13 model and both players had endorsement contracts with Hillerich & Bradsby, indicating bats produced for them bearing their branded facsimile signature on the barrel. Therefore, it is our opinion; this bat was manufactured for Joe Jackson."

MEARS further adds that "This is a 100% verifiable game used Black Betsy bat. The Black Betsy was the most famous bat in baseball history and attributed almost exclusively to Shoeless Joe Jackson."

As is often seen, PSA/DNA and MEARS have slightly different opinions with regard to the amount of use displayed on the bat. PSA/DNA describes the use as moderate: "Some checking (grain swelling) from contact is visible on the back barrel. Three depressions are visible on the left barrel. The heavily flame treated finish exudes a deep brown patina. The small area of grain swelling on the back barrel has had the finish brightened." MEARS describes the use as heavy with "light cleat marks on both ends. There are also some ball marks. The bat shows significant game use while exhibiting a near mint finish and appearance." Like PSA/DNA, MEARS agrees that a tiny bit of professional restoration has been performed on the back barrel in the areas affected by the grain swelling. MEARS also states that "There was a very small chip on the knob that has been professionally repaired." The bat, as noted in both letters, is not cracked.

Those minor differences aside, both companies are in total agreement that this is an outstanding Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bat in all respects. MEARS' final comment simply reads "This is one of the finest Black Betsy Bats in existence." PSA/DNA's conclusion reads "After a thorough examination of this vintage Black Betsy professional model bat, and its player use characteristics; it is our opinion the bat is authentic and was game used by Jackson during the referenced labeling. The bat exhibits moderate use and possesses identifiable player use characteristics." Both LOAs can be viewed in their entirety on our website.

Adding to the appeal of this bat is its particular dating. The fact that it dates to the 1919-1922 manufacturing period allows for the possibility that Jackson may have used it in the 1919 World Series. While we have no way of knowing when, or for how long, this particular bat was used, just the thought that it COULD HAVE seen action in the 1919 World Series, in which Jackson and seven other of his White Sox teammates conspired to throw the Series, further distinguishes it as a truly extraordinary Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bat. Length: 35.5 inches. Weight: 40.1 ounces. Graded A10 by MEARS (5 point base grade, plus 3 points for use and 2 points for its specific player model and use traits). Graded GU 8 by PSA/DNA. LOAs from John Taube and Vince Malta of PSA/DNA and Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Also accompanied by an LOA from SCD Authentic (grade A10), signed by Dave Bushing and Troy Kinunen.

(Click the smaller thumbnails to the left and right (if any) to cycle through each photo in the gallery of images for this lot.)