The Classic Crossed Bats Pins and Their Derivatives

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:

  1.  Size.  The pins come in three sizes: 1.25”, 1.75”, and 3.50”.
  2. Color:  The pins are of one color or two colors.
  3. 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.

nyy

No border, two colors.

mets small

Border, one color.

dodgers small

Border, two colors.

cleveland small

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.

cardinals cb

This pin has the city name in the upper third, and the team names in the sweet spot and lower third.

elite

This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and the lower third is blank.

phillies cb big

This pin has the team name in the sweet spot (with an incorrect apostrophe), and the city name in the lower third.

white roses

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).

blue jays

This pin has the crossed bats, the team name in the sweet spot, and a nickname in the lower third.

whiz kids

This pin has the crossed bats, team name in the sweet spot, and reference to a special one-day event in the lower third.oldtimers

This pin has “Go Go” surrounding the crossed bats.

go go

In the 1.75” size, the crossed bats are larger in pins with a border compared to the pins without a border.

double large

In the 1.25” size, the crossed bats are the same size in pins with and without a border.

small double

The crossed bats design was adapted to the All-Star game.

all-star

In this pin the team name is in script.

orioles script

These pins have the same design but with different fonts.

double mets

This pin has an unusual grey background color.

rs cb

This pin contains a blatant typo.

detriot

This pin has a disproportionately thick border.

small mets

Not just any Senators.

the 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.

white sox cb

For other teams a caricature appeared in the lower third.  Some caricatures were plausible, as this pin for the Detroit Tigers.

tigers cb

Other caricatures were indeed novel, as this pin for the Washington Senators.

senators cb

Yet other caricatures exceeded “novelty.”  Have you ever wondered what a “Phillie” looked like?

phillies cb

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.

double giants

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.

selmon

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.

cb bottom yanks

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.

1934

A (common) undated pin of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies.

undated phillies

A (scarce) dated 1950 Philadelphia Phillies pin.

dated phillies

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.

yankees

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.

1959 dodgers

1962 giants

yankees 1962

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

What We Learn From Hand-Written Notations on Pins and Ribbons (Update)

In my baseball book I said every pinback has a story to tell, and added, “If only they could talk.”  A few have.  I came across several pins that have hand-written notations on them.  These notes often add to understanding the context in which the pins were originally purchased, embellishing a piece of plastic with a human story.  I have found these notes written on the back of a pin, on an attached ribbon, and on a piece of paper tucked behind the pin.  Several of the pins establish a definitive date.

The first pin is courtesy of Andy Bowers.  The pin itself is stunningly beautiful, a classic 3.00” pin from the 1926 World Series.  The pin was made by the Steiner Engraving and Badge Company of St. Louis.  The company used a distinctive style of cardboard backing on its pins.  A lengthy notation was written on the cardboard backing.  It states: “I feeling fine.  Will write soon.  I want you to wear this everywhere you go.  From Tom Muth.  Waiting for the boys.  I mean the Cardinals, they are so many people in front of our house we can’t get out.” 1926 was the first year the Cardinals won the World Series.

1926 Cardinals

An undated 6.00” pin was made by the St. Louis Button Company that also used a cardboard backing.  On the cardboard it states, “Bob Williams, September 1,  (indecipherable) St. Louis, 1128 Restolozzi, Year 1944.”  I knew the pin was made in the mid-1940s, but until I saw this specimen, I did not know the exact year.

Cardinals

Cards reverse

Dick Farrell pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies starting in 1956.  He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in mid-season 1961.  The little baseball logo at the 4:00 position was first evidenced on pins in 1959 and last used in 1964.  A hand-written date on the ribbon of “1960” identifies the date the pin was purchased.

Farrell

Connie Mack served as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years.  He was honored with dated pins toward the end of his career, as evidenced by these two pins.

Mack old

mack window

However, other pins were made of Mack at earlier points in his career without a date or explanation for their issuance.  One such pin is this 1.25” pin.   On a small piece of paper tucked in the back it states, “August 4th, 1944, 50th anniversary “. In 1894 Mack began his managerial career with the Pittsburg Pirates.  The Athletics honored Mack with this pin, but I don’t know if August 4, 1944 was officially declared “Connie Mack Day” at the ballpark.  Without the note, the date of this pin would remain unknown.

Update:  I discovered that the Athletics did indeed honor Mack on August 4, 1944 with his “day” at the ballpark.

mack

mack reverse

I recently acquired this particular specimen of a Yankee pin.  The ribbon is dated, “September  13 , 1953.”  The Yankees did not clinch the pennant until the end of September in 1953.  As such, the pin was sold as a souvenir from a previous year, 1951 or 1952.  As shown in my book, there were three pairs of matched pins for the New York teams in the World Series, 1951-1953.  Undated pins are less difficult for vendors to sell when they become outdated.

1952 Yankees

1952 reverse

The final pin, like the 1926 St. Louis Cardinals pin, tells a lengthy story.  This 1.75” pin is of Red Grange.  Grange mostly played his professional football for the Chicago Bears.  However, in 1926 following a contract dispute with the Bears, Grange formed his own team, the New York Yankees, as well as creating a new league, the American Football League.  The league was also called “The Red Grange League” and the team was often called “The Red Grange Yankees.”  Tucked behind this pin was a folded piece of paper with a note written in ink with a fountain pen.  It reads: ”Oliver took me to see my first football game at the Polo Grounds.  November 2, 1926.  Red Grange Yankees vs. Rock Island Independents.  Score 35-0 in favor of Yankees.”  Above the “35” in smaller letters is “Yankees” and above the “0” is “R.I.I.”.  The “Red Grange Yankees” and the “Red Grange League” lasted one season.  In 1927 some of the teams were folded into the National Football League.  Grange would return to the Bears to complete his playing career.

AFL Grange

Grange note

Pins were made of Grange as a collegian at the University of Illinois,

Illinois Grange

during his barnstorming tours,

Barnstorming Grange

and as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Bears Grange

The note reveals this pin to be a scarce souvenir from his one year on the team and in the league that were both named after him.  Records indicate that the 1926 New York Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium.  Either this game was played in the Polo Grounds, or the original owner of the pin was so enamored with “Oliver” she didn’t realize the game was being played in the Bronx.

Aside from a note placed in the back of a pin, and without a cardboard backing or ribbon, there is literally no place for a notation to be written on a pin.  We are lucky to find a few pins that provide a glimpse into the date and/or occasion when they were purchased.

Next up: The Classic Crossed Bats Pins and Their Derivatives