Baseball Shorts: Black Betsy

In this episode of “Baseball Shorts,” we pay attention to a bat called Black Betsy. Which baseball great called his bat like this? Read on and you will learn.

In my search about information of the song Black Betty by Ram Jam, I bumped into an article about Black Betsy. First I thought that Black Betsy would be a misprint, but when I looked a bit more thoroughly, I figured out that it wasn’t.

The bat that carried the name Black Betsy, was created in 1903, when baseball great Joe Jackson was fifteen years old. It was manufactured by a local fan of the South Carolina mill teams, Charlie Ferguson. He used the northern side of a hickory tree to make the bat. It measured 36 inches (91 cm) and weighed 48 ounces (1.4 kg). Knowing that Jackson liked blacked bats, Ferguson darkened the bat with tobacco juice. Jackson took the bat to the minor leagues, where the fans often chanted “Give ’em Black Betsy” when Jackson came to bat.

Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Black Betsy

When Jackson’s contract was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics, he took Black Betsy with him. The bat broke in 1911 and Jackson took it to an MLB bat manufacturer, who fixed the bat for him. According to the legend, Jackson would hit with this bat for the remainder of his career. Jackson kept the bat for the rest of his life. After his death, his wife kept the bat until she passed away. Her cousin would inherit the bat. In 2001, he would sell the bat on E-bay for a record breaking $525,100.

The bat is currently owned by a business man who won an online auction and paid $577,610 for it. A lot of money, but still not a record. That honor goes to a bat that belonged to Babe Ruth and that was sold for more than $1 million.

One of the Black Betty’s most distinguishable elements is its slight bend, a very unique feature that well documented in newspapers throughout Jackson’s playing career.

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