We cannot see a collection of bats without thinking of wine: So many bottle-shaped varieties, racked and labeled, cellared in a dugout (and occasionally corked). Bats, too, are inert objects, until some pint-sized sommelier—"Batboy!"—hands one to a connoisseur near the plate, where latent powers are revealed. The bats on these pages are from the game's finest vintner, the Baseball Hall of Fame; some (including George Brett's notorious Pine Tar bat, below) are on view in the exhibit "Baseball as America," a 10-city tour that opened last week at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Might we commend to you a 1919 Joe Jackson Black Betsy?
RABBIT MARANVILLE, c. 1914
The 155-pound shortstop brandished a tree trunk: a 31�-inch Spalding weighing 50 ounces. Maybe that's why he batted .258.
WILLIE KEELER, c. 1900
To hit 'em where they wasn't, the 5'4�" outfielder fittingly used a wee stick: a 30�-inch Hillerich & Bradsby that weighed 34 ounces.
SPALDING MUSHROOM HANDLE, c. 1900
Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance favored this bat, better-balanced than the top-heavy models of the era.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 1990
Who needs a donut when you've got the Bratt's Bat, a 75-ouncer (including the plastic tube) designed for swings in the on-deck circle?
ICHIRO SUZUKI, 2001
The Japanese phenom made his mark in the States with, what else, Japanese lumber: a 33-inch, 32-ounce Mizuno that banged out 242 hits.
DECAL BAT, c. 1915
Likely a Hillerich & Bradsby salesman's sample, it features decals of stars in the company's stable.
JOE JACKSON, c. 1911
Shoeless Joe's biographers say it's so: The original Black Betsy (a predecessor of this one) got its hue from two coats of tobacco juice.
BABE RUTH, c. 1920
The Bambino liked to keep track of his taters, so he notched the barrel of his surprisingly light 32-ounce bat whenever he hit one.
LOU GEHRIG, c. 1930
Larrupin' Lou had to be strong as an iron horse to haul this 36�-inch, 46-ounce Spalding stick to the plate for 17 years.