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Some Players Love Their Bats

Dear Guru,

My father played baseball at the University of Alabama. His coach was retired N.Y. Yankee, Joe Sewell. Joe has the all time record for fewest strikeouts per at bat. It was not unusual to see Joe strikeout around 4 or 5 times in a 600 at-bat season. Many people do not know this little fact about Joe Sewell.  In his major league career, (Not sure how many years - but he is the Hall of Fame so it had to be for some time.) Joe used the same bat in every game. He carried it with him to dinner, on the bus, and yes, even in bed. Every day, Joe used a broken bottle to "shed" handle. Then he spit on the handle and rubbed it in. Afterwards he "shed it a little more. His handle became so tough from the lubrication and carving that he never broke it. Now that bats grow on trees, players don't do that anymore. But for Joe, it worked for many years.

- From:, 2/9/98

Guru's Reponse

Wow!  Sewell loved his bat even more than Long Levi Meyerle loved his (Meyerle carved engravings into his bat and put a leather strap through the bat's handle).  I dug up some stats on Joe Sewell.  He played from 1920 to 1933, mostly at shortstop.  He spent eleven seasons with the Cleveland Indians and three with the New York Yankees.  In 7,132 carrer at bats, he struck out only 114 times, which is only about 16 times in 1,000. His Hall of Fame teammate, Babe Ruth, struck out 1,330 times, which works out to about 158 times per 1,000 at bats.  They both maintained career batting averages over .310.

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