Baseball bats didn’t have to conform to standards then. Players fashioned 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 would shape 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 Rise and Fall of Ash
The 1860s witnessed the upsurge of baseball bats production. This paved the way for having flat bats, round bats, and fat bats. These bats were much larger and much heavier than the bats than the bats that we have today. It was believed then that the bigger the bat, the bigger the hit. Bats were made from maple, willow, and pine. It boiled down to anything that can be chopped can be made a bat. With the passage of decades, round ash bats evolved and had become the popular choice. The use of bats made of ash continued to be the most popular for major league batters in the 1870s. The dominance of the bats made of ash ended when Barry Bonds broke records using a maple bat.
The Rule that Said and Changed It All
In 1859, the Baseball Rules Committee added two important improvements to baseball. 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 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.
Professional Woodworkers to the Rescue
To cope with the new rule changes, players began seeking the help of professional woodworkers to build their bats. Woodworkers were able to use professional lathes to shape baseball bats, and were also keen to find a better source of wood and better dimensions to build the best possible bat. This led to woodworkers racing against each other in manufacturingthe most popular bat. Bats with carved knob for better control and made withquality wood, not in wood used for ax handles and wagon wheels.
The baseball bat that we know today is completely an improved version of how it was decades ago. The evolution of the bats has taught us that the change that took place were fueled by certain factors such as improving hits or giving a more comfortable grip to the players.