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

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5 thoughts on “The Classic Crossed Bats Pins and Their Derivatives

    • Mike,

      It is not you. I have spent nine hours trying to get the images inserted into the text, and either my computer or WordPress is not cooperating. I will try again after I return from the National. Sorry for the problems. It is extremely aggravating on my end as well.

      Best,

      Paul

  1. Paul,
    Thanks for fixing the photo problem. The crossed bats pins have been a favorite of mine for some time now. The best thing is the unknown. Any day on ebay a previously unknown version of one of these can show up. And possibly (like the Bat for Selman), we won’t even know what it means! Since you wrote your book in 2004, any idea how many more crossed bats you have acquired or seen that could be added to that chapter?
    Mike

    • Mike,

      Sorry for the delay in responding to your question. Since I published the book nine years ago, I have found 14 more crossed bats pins in the 1.75″ size and 19 more in the 1.25″ size. Perhaps the oddest one is a production prototype, a “salesman’s sample” if you will. It has a border, 1.75″ diameter, crossed bats at the top, the sweet spot and the lower third are blank. Thanks for your encouragement to do this column.

      Best,

      Paul

      • That’s more than I thought. That in and of itself could be an idea for another column. Of course an update to your book is another way to go. I’m sure you have found hundreds of additional team pinbacks for Section L since publishing. I could probably add 50 to the Cubs section alone.

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