Description1908-10 "Wee Willie" Keeler Game Used Bat. Second behind only the great Cap Anson in career hits at the time of his 1910 retirement with 2,932, Keeler earned his posthumous Hall of Fame plaque by staying true to his simple batting philosophy, "Hit 'em where they ain't." One of the shortest inhabitants of Cooperstown, Keeler utilized what is documented as Major League history's shortest bat, just a half inch over the required minimum of thirty inches. Though what the presented "Spalding Gold Medal William Keeler Autograph" model lumber lacks in size, it more than makes up for in historical and collecting appeal.
The man who scored the first run in New York Yankees history as a member of the 1903 Highlanders, Keeler joined Ty Cobb in 1908 in signing contracts with Spalding to produce autograph model bats for their use, and for retail sales. It is important to note, however, that several significant attributes differentiate this professional model from those commercially available.
1) Spalding catalogs from the period indicate availability of the Keeler model bat in lengths of thirty-two to thirty-five inches. No half-inch models were sold, and none shorter than thirty-two inches. It should also be noted that 30.5 inches is the size in Hillerich & Bradsby ordering records for Keeler.
2) All known retail model Spalding bats from this period featured logo stamping on the knob end. The presented example features lathe marks indicative of hand rasping of the knob and barrel end, a procedure intended to reach a player's intended bat weight (thirty-six and a half ounces in this case).
3) The high quality of the ash utilized in the construction of the bat is far more typical of professional than retail quality.
Apparent use is light but definite, with over a dozen surface ball marks and light but distinct stitch impressions. It must be noted that the tight grain of the high quality ash could bear responsibility for the limited signs of wear. Handle tape appears to have been removed, and has left faint signs of its presence. Period photography finds Keeler using bats identical in apparent size and shape. With a full five points awarded for fidelity to factory specifications, and another point for the light use, the bat earns a grade of MEARS A6. LOA from MEARS.
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