Black Betsy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Shoeless Joe Jackson, Black Betsy in hand, during his 1913 season with the Cleveland Naps.

Black Betsy was the primary baseball bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson. It was created in 1903 when Jackson was 15. It broke the record for the highest sold baseball bat in history, when it was sold for $577,610 in 2001.[1] By then it was considered one of baseball's most fabled artifacts.[1]


It was created 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.[2] It ended up measuring 36 inches and weighing 48 ounces. Knowing that Jackson liked blacked bats, Fergerson darkened the bat with tobacco juice. He took the bat to the minor leagues, where the fans often chanted "Give 'em Black Betsy" when Jackson came to bat.[3]

Major leagues[edit]

Jackson took the bat with him when he was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. He considered Black Betsy to be his favorite bat.[4] The bat broke early in 1911 and he sent the bat to the J. F. Hillerich Company, a company that made bats for major league ballplayers, to get it fixed.[5] He used the bat for the rest of his major league career.[1]


Jackson kept Black Betsy until his death in 1951. After his wife's death a few years later, it was bequeathed to her cousin and her son, Lester Erwin, who kept the bat on a bookcase for over 40 years.[1] Erwin decided to sell the bat through Ebay in 2001. In a 10-day auction, it gathered two bids. The winner, Rob Mitchell, owner of a marketing company in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, won the bat for $525,100 plus a 10 percent buyer's premium.[1] It was auctioned again at Sotheby's on December 10, 2005.[6]


Sporting goods companies Spalding and Hillerich & Bradsby both produced reproductions of the bat for sale to fans, starting in the 1910s.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Associated Press (August 8, 2001). "Shoeless Joe's Bat Sells for $577,610". The New York Times. p. D6. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ Fleitz, David L. (2001). Shoeless - The Life and Times of Joe Jackson. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7864-3312-4. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Fleitz, p. 15.
  4. ^ Fleitz, p. 17.
  5. ^ Fleitz, p. 48.
  6. ^ Associated Press (October 20, 2005). "Shoeless Joe's Black Betsy to be auctioned". NBC Sports. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ "WPW Throwbacks: Shoeless Joe Jackson's "Black Betsy"". WPW: What Pros Wear. July 28, 2013. Archived from the original on April 29, 2014. 
  8. ^ "1910s-1920s "Black Betsy" Spalding Store Model Bat". Huggins & Scott Auctions. 2012.