Baseball is one of the most popular sports we have today. The use of the baseballs with the baseball bats has offered things that make people interested in the sport. But do you know that the baseball bat that you know today was completely different the first time baseball was played?
The baseball bat had its own evolution before it assumed its present form. Believe it or not. It started as a stick.
Didn’t Stick to the Rule
When baseball was first played, players used sticks to hit the ball. There were no standards set for baseball bats then. Players were allowed to fashion their own sticks to suit their hitting style. Players made use of whatever scrap wood available to them. In most cases, they had to work on ax handle or wagon wheel spoke and transformed them into bats. Soon, the majority of players were fashioning their bats solely from wagon tongue wood. Players shaped wagon wheels spoke into a flat hitting sticks. These sticks were slightly tapered at one end for a more solid grip. The bats, then, were resilient. Soon, round bats emerged because players realized that rounder bats provided a better point of contact than flat bats.
The Man Who Stopped Ash Bats
By the time the game had been officially organized as a team sport, the players either whittled their own bats. Some of them bought them from wood turners. The bats used were heavier and larger than the bats, which are used today. It was believed then that the bigger the bat, the bigger the hit. Bats were made from maple, willow, and pine. With the passage of time, round ash bats evolved and gained much popularity. The use of bats made of ash continued to in major league batters in the 1870s but their dominance ended when Barry Bonds broke records using a maple bat.
The Rules that Changed the Game
In 1859, the Baseball Rules Committee initiated reforms in the game. First, the use bats sawed off at the end or flat bats was no longer allowed. Then, the pitching mound was moved from 50 feet to 60 feet and 6 inches from home plate. The diameter of bats was increased from 2 1/2 inches to 2 3/4 inches. The length of the bats remained the same at 42 inches – a rule that is still enforced in the league’s today. Early bats ranged from 48-50 ounces in weight with an average handle circumference of 4.5 inches. By the 1960s, however, players such as Hank Aaron were using shorter, lighter bats to smash balls into the centerfield seats. Aaron’s bat measured 35 inches long and 33 ounces in weight.
Into the Woods
To cope with the new rule changes, players began seeking the help of professional woodworkers to create their bats. Woodworkers were able to use professional lathes to shape baseball bats. They were also keen on finding a better source of wood and better dimensions to build the best bat possible. Bats with carved knob for better control and made with quality wood replaced the bats made from ax handles and wagon wheels.
The baseball bat that we know today is completely an improved version of the stick it used to be. The evolution of the baseball bat started with a stick formed at the player’s desire and hitting preference. To say that it’s a great leap to have composite and aluminum bats now is an understatement.