Pinbacks of the “crossed bats” design achieve aesthetic congruence by capturing the symmetry between a round baseball and a round pin. These pins depict the three areas of a baseball demarcated by the stitching: an upper third, equally matched by a lower third, with a “sweet spot” in the middle. There is ample room on the pin for both words and images. The crossed bats pins exhibit a simplistic style and grace emblematic of the game itself.
The term “crossed bats” is highly descriptive of this pin design, as the crossed bats are the most distinctive feature of the pin. Paradoxically, however, about 5% of the crossed bats design of pins do not depict crossed bats. Other images or words are presented in their prototypical place. A more precise and exhaustive term instead of a “crossed bats” design would be a “stitching” design, as ALL of the pins show the stitching on a baseball. So, with due recognition of the occasional inaccuracy of the term, this column presents pins of the crossed bats design, along with their stylistic derivatives.
Pins showing the three parts of a baseball date back to the founding of celluloid pins in the late 1890s. 1934 is the earliest confirmed date of the type of pin I would classify as being of the crossed bats design. The most recent pin of this design is the late 1960s when the Montreal Expos and the San Diego Padres joined the Major Leagues. The crossed bats design appears on pins from both Major League and Minor League teams, as well as a few “oddball” pins. Spanning at least 35 years and representing teams from across the nation, they are the quintessential exemplar of a “baseball pinback button.”
There are three major factors useful in classifying the crossed bats pins:
- Size. The pins come in three sizes: 1.25”, 1.75”, and 3.50”.
- Color: The pins are of one color or two colors.
- Border: The pins feature either a border or no border.
Pins in the largest size (3.50”) have only been seen with a border. For pins without a border, there is typically a graceful pattern of very fine speckling in the bottom half of the pin. The pattern begins at the 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, starting within the sweet spot. Moving downward, the pattern becomes more prominent, and is most evident at the 6:00 o’clock position on the pin. The entire design is encased within a thin circle. Pins with a border do not use the speckling pattern. I have never seen a crossed bats pin without a border that had no speckling. The earliest crossed bats pin featured no border. Crossed bats pins with a border began to appear in the 1950s.
In an attempt to classify the crossed bats pins, it is instructive to first establish the standard (or most common) design. The standard design has three features: 1) the crossed bats appear in the upper third; 2) the name of the city appears in the sweet spot; and 3) the name of the team appears in the lower third. Here are some crossed bats pins illustrative of the standard design:
No border, one color.
No border, two colors.
Border, one color.
Border, two colors.
However, there are many pins that depart from this standard design.
Some crossed bats pins of the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals replaced the crossed bats with an image emblematic of the team. Other pins of these same teams have the crossed bats, not the image.
This pin has the city name in the upper third, and the team names in the sweet spot and lower third.
This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and the lower third is blank.
This pin has the team name in the sweet spot (with an incorrect apostrophe), and the city name in the lower third.
This pin has an image replacing the crossed bats, no city name, and two team names in the sweet spot and lower third (from the 1940s, when the Phillies experimented with having a new team name, the Blue Jays).
This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and a nickname in the lower third.
This pin has the crossed bats, team name in the sweet spot, and reference to a special one-day event in the lower third.
This pin has “Go Go” surrounding the crossed bats.
In the 1.75” size, the crossed bats are larger in pins with a border compared to the pins without a border.
In the 1.25” size, the crossed bats are the same size in pins with and without a border.
The crossed bats design was adapted to the All-Star game.
In this pin the team name is in script.
These pins have the same design but with different fonts.
This pin has an unusual grey background color.
This pin contains a blatant typo.
This pin has a disproportionately thick border.
Not just any Senators.
In 1962 when the Minnesota Twins joined the Major Leagues, the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company of Minneapolis issued a set of 1.75” pins for all the MLB teams. The pin for the Twins featured the image of two ballplayers shaking hands, symbolic of the Twin Cities. A crossed bats pin was made for every other team. The pins were of a most unusual design. Instead of the speckling pattern being between the 3:00 and 9:00 o’clock positions, in these pins the speckling pattern is between the 4:00 and 10:00 o’clock positions. There is also a break in the pattern of speckling at the 8:00 o’clock position. The crossed bats were in the upper third, city name and the team name on the sweet spot, and the lower third feature a logo or caricature of the team. The crossed bats were grossly out of proportion compared to all other crossed bats pins. For some teams their logo appeared in the bottom third. One such pin was for the Chicago White Sox. However, the logo was inverted in production, so instead of S-O-X, it is S-X-O.
For other teams a caricature appeared in the lower third. Some caricatures were plausible, as this pin for the Detroit Tigers.
Other caricatures were indeed novel, as this pin for the Washington Senators.
Yet other caricatures exceeded “novelty.” Have you ever wondered what a “Phillie” looked like?
I consider the crossed bats pin made by the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company to be an unusual variant to the conventional design.
The pin on the right has the delicate and graceful pattern of speckles. The pin on the left is a re-issue, resulting in speckling that is heavy and unappealing.
This is a crossed bats pin that is not from either a Major League or Minor League team. I do not know who or what “Selmon” is.
The little ball between the bats is in the space in the upper half of the crossed bats. I know of one pin where the ball is in the lower half. As another example of an oddball derivative, in this pin the crossed bats are in the lower third of the pin.
The design of the crossed bats pins was modified to celebrate American League and National League championships. This is the oldest known pin of this design.
A (common) undated pin of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies.
A (scarce) dated 1950 Philadelphia Phillies pin.
The New York Yankees won the American League pennant so often it is impossible to know the year this pin was issued. It was likely reissued repeatedly in the 1950s. As such, it is much more common than the standard crossed bats pin of the New York Yankees in the 1.75” size.
These pins are poorly made, lacking the delicate aesthetics of typical crossed bats pins without a border. Furthermore, they were made without the thin circle encasing the design as found in other crossed bats pins without a border. They were issued for the teams playing in the 1959 (Dodgers-White Sox) and 1962 (Giants-Yankees) World Series. I believe they were made by a West Coast pinmaker. They were originally accompanied by a validating ribbon. I have not seen a White Sox pin of this distinctive design, but I believe it exists.
Although the crossed bats pins have a classic design, they are an enigma within the hobby. There have no known manufacturer (except for those made by the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company). It is likely the pins with a border were made by a different pinmaker than the pins without a border. Furthermore, there are second generation or re-issued pins, as evidenced by the pin with the heavy speckling. It would be incorrect to describe them as individual pins, but equally incorrect to describe them as a set. I consider the pins from the Midwest Badge and Novelty Company to be a “set” embedded within the crossed bats design of pins. Some pins in the 1.25” size have counterparts in the 1.75” size. Other pins exist in the 1.25” size but not in the 1.75” size, and vice versa. It is unknown why pins were made in the 3.50” size for certain teams but not others. The presence of different fonts further adds to their intrigue. I consider the crossed bats pins, especially those without a border, to be among the most archetypal baseball pinback buttons. Although they are not particularly valuable, they are an embodiment of the hobby.
Next up: Boston Red Sox All-Star Pinbacks