Knob Numbering - A Cautionary Tale Focusing On Boggs Game Used Bats

We have been collecting for over 25 years, have handled more than a thousand Red Sox bats, and looked at probably hundreds of more in auctions and online. At the time we started, there was no such thing as photo matching or video matching and of course no MLB authentication.

The hobby has lurched into the present and now you can screen shot from MLB HD and scour Getty images to photo match bats. But we also very much enjoy the more traditional discussions of authentication that revolve around player use characteristics, trying to determine whether a bat is authentic by studying how a player prepared his bats.

Recently, we have encountered discussions that suggest a "players handwriting" is reflected by the numbers on the knobs, and some limited suggestion that bats without knob numbers written a certain way were "fake" or "fraudulent." Player characteristics are a vital part of authentication, especially for the very valuable high end bat. One might not buy a bat that does not have the typical player characteristics, but this does not necessarily mean the bat is fake or fraudulent. Further, the modern bat faker is likely bright enough to research player characteristics, (yes this actually happens, but that is a story for a different day).

Why choose Boggs for this discussion?  Well he is one of our favorite Red Sox players, his game used bats have always been in high demand and we have seen extensive discussion by collectors and authenticators in the hobby about his habits and the way that numbers were written on the knobs of his bats. A review of Getty Images is replete with pictures that show his typical Red Sox knob numbering like the below:

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This has led some people to conclude that Boggs sat in his locker and wrote the knob numbers his bats. Such conversations often turn to discussions of "Boggs' handwriting." We concede that we have no special insight into what he actually did while a Red Sox, we were not in the locker room, and he could have been the one who wrote all the knob numbers.  He certainly had that level of attention to detail when it came to hitting. However,  that is unlikely, at least not in every instance. As evidence we offer a group of numbers written on the knobs of several Red Sox bats, tell me which ones are Boggs written 2s.

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Answer is None, as you probably guessed, but they look quite close to the purported Boggs handwriting and we could give you dozens more examples.

A review of Boggs online images also reveals tons of images with the more common Boggs numbering, but also several instances of knob numbers that are not the typical numbering style. And these are pictures from approximately 100 at bats of the thousands of at bats he had.

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Even PSA has apparently concluded that the knob numbering is not the be all and end all of a Boggs gamer, repeatedly giving Boggs bats with varied knob numbers some of the highest possible grades.

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Even bats that have one style of numbering on the knob, have been found to have a different style of numbering on the top of the barrel.

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A recent dealer acquisition of Boggs bats sealed this for us, or unsealed it as the case may be. It was a set of early 90s Boggs Red Sox bats, autographed as "game used" by Boggs. However, the knobs reflect no less than three different numbering styles

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The reality is that bats come into the clubhouse and are shipped and handled in many ways. Could they have been shipped with other bats for spring training and numbered before Boggs got to Fenway or Winter Haven? Possibly. Could they have been mixed and brought on the road necessitating clubhouse staff to number up the knobs? There is a chance. So what is the point here? Bat authentication by player characteristic (particularly the absence of a player characteristic) is an art and not a science. To be clear, there are many game used bats we have passed on because they lacked player characteristics, and if shopping for a Boggs, the more common number would be part of an analysis of fair value, but be cautious before a calling out a bat as fake or fraudulent for lacking those characteristics. Good luck with your collecting!

Cracked or Uncracked, That Is The Question

When we first started collecting bats it is fair to say the we were picky.  If the bat lacked substantial use or had too heavy a crack, we often passed it by with the belief that another would surface.  Of course, when you are trying to collect players from the 1960s and 70s whom spent little time in the majors, you learn the hard lesson that ANY bat must suffice because it may be the ONLY bat you ever find from that player.  These early missed opportunities are a story for a different day.

The question of the moment is given the choice between a cracked bat and an uncracked bat what would you choose and why?  It is likely that most will fall into the camp of uncracked because such bats oftentimes display better, can be held by the owner without concern and raise no issues about missing pieces.  All good points, but give me the cracked bat provided there are no missing pieces.  If the bat has heavy use it is almost assured that the cracked bat saw real use in a game.  There is something noble about the cracked bat, employed by the player until the end of its useful life. 

Also, if the bat lacks MLB Authentication, being cracked IMHO makes it much more likely that the bat is genuine.  It is virtually impossible to fake crack a bat and, besides, who would try to do that and risk ruining the bat?  That used but uncracked bat of a star player leads to questions like, why would a player give that bat up before cracking it?  Of course there are valid explanations, and there is no substitute for the proper player use characteristics, but when the bat is cracked you know the player willingly parted with it.  See many cracked bats in the BAT COLLECTION section of the website

 Classic cracked Rick Burleson game used bat

Classic cracked Rick Burleson game used bat

Gomes, Victus, and WMB . . . . Boston Strong 4/21/13

When the Red Sox returned from the road trip following the Boston Marathon bombings, Jonny Gomes had a message for the team and the city. Saturday 4/20/13 witnessed his pinch hit double and iconic photo standing on second base.  Working with Victus Bats, four bats were prepared for Gomes in honor of the four who passed away in the bombings.  News of the bats took to twitter through Will Middlebrooks.

The below bat and batting gloves were used in the 4/21/13 game and then auctioned for charity by the Red Sox Foundation. Many view Gomes and the Boston Strong rallying cry as catalysts for the 2013 World Championship Season.  You can see this and many other Gomes bats in the BAT COLLECTION section of the site.

 

 

Marathon Monday David Ross HR Jersey

After the Boston Marathon bombings the Red Sox went on the road and when they returned from Cleveland the team changed its iconic home whites from "Red Sox" to "Boston" in a show of solidarity with the town and the victims.  This started a tradition with the Red Sox wearing these "Boston" jerseys on Patriots Day in remembrance.   The below jersey was worn by David Ross on the first anniversary of the Marathon bombings and later auctioned for charity by the Red Sox Foundation.  While the Sox did not prevail, Ross hammered his first home run of the season.

You can see this jersey and many others in the CATCHERS section of the website.

 David Ross 2014 Autographed Patriots Day Jersey

David Ross 2014 Autographed Patriots Day Jersey

David Ross 2013 ALCS Game 5 Hit Ball

After sitting for games 2, 3 and 4 of the 2013 ALCS and watching the Tigers even the series at 2-2, Ross strode to the plate in the second inning of pivotal game 5 in Detroit. With Gomes on third and Bogaerts on second, Ross lashed this ball on a 1-0 pitch from Anibal Sanchez into the left field corner for a double, plating a runner and helping the Red Sox win a pivotal game 4

Game used hit balls are tough to gather, it takes a heads up MLB authenticator working closely with the batboys to gather and identify such items (thanks to @DETAuthentics, some of the best in the business, for this one!).  While the advent of authentication and the team stores have made these more available to collectors, only the truly dedicated and tireless collector can gather a collection focused on these.  As it is a hit by a Red Sox catcher, it fits in our collection.  Check out more David Ross game used gear in the CATCHERS section of the website

A Few Game Used Bat Photomatching Tips

Hey, how do those collectors do those photomatches where they focus down to a scratch on a bat and put it in a picture with the player? 

If you have collected game used bats for the last several years, you have no doubt witnessed the advent of a phenomenon called photo matching. It used to be that bat labeling, use characteristics, ordering records and knob numbering were the only ways, other than provenance, to authenticate a bat. A select few dealers and collectors had access to the Rosetta Stone of bat collecting, Louisville Slugger's shipping records, and collectors poured over these to establish players had ordered a bat of similar length, weight and model. 

However, with the explosion of digital photography and MLB TV in HD online, almost every at bat by every player is accessible, sometimes from multiple angles if you look at the home and away feed on MLB TV. Further, MLB authentication often allows you to pinpoint the actual game where a bat was last used or at least taken out of use by the player. Armed with this information you can explore sites such as Getty Images, AP Images, Corbis and look at the video to see precisely when the very bat you have was used. Often MLB bats authenticated as "team issued" turn out to be actually used in a game. They are authenticated as team issued because the Authenticator did not witness the final use by the player.

A few tricks of the trade. Find a bat with clear markings that you want to match. Remember, most of the time a bat will not have less marks as time goes on. Be methodical, check Getty first to try to pinpoint a date and then work your way back through video. Know your players habits if you can, some players have 5 bats in a rotation others just one, some put down a bat for a week then pick it up again, some use game bats in BP so a bat can go from light use to heavy use overnight. Lizard Skin wraps are like a fingerprint, bat knobs with numbers or dating are great too. The simplest way to blow up an online photo with good resolution in our amateur experience is on an iPad and then copy with the screen shot function (your fingers will get a bit tangled at first). For some reason when you expand a photo on an iPad the resolution stays pretty good.

Once you have your screen shot or photo, try to take a picture of your bat and paste it into the matching photo side by side. You need to try to match your camera angle to the angle of the bat in the photo, which can be tough. Not to get too technical but you can simply rotate the matching photo in photo editing software until the bat in the picture is at 90 degrees, photos on this site were done using an ancient version of paint shop pro, paste the bat in at as close to the same size as the bat in the picture and then rotate the completed photo back. Hopefully you get something like the below shot.  Good luck photo matchers

Brandon Snyder's First Red Sox Home Run

Ramon Aviles a/k/a Red Sox Moonlight Graham

It was July, 10 1977, the second game of a double header in Milwaukee.  The Sox were in first place and would win 97 games that year but finish second to the Yankees.  The team was loaded with All Stars and Hall of famers, including Fisk, Rice and Yaz.  It was the 7th and the Sox were down by one with men on first and second and no outs.  Zimmer lifted Carbo and sent Aviles to the plate, it was his Major League debut.  He executed what one can imagine was a perfect bunt, moving the runners.  It was his only at bat for the Red Sox.  Like every all star and hall of famer, his bat has a place in the collection.  Thirty-four years later his nephew, Mike Aviles would play for the Sox.  Check out this and other game used red sox bats in the BAT COLLECTION section of the website.