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Jimmy Palermo, during a historic 7-day span in May, 1939, saw the meteoric rise of Williams and tragic decline of Gehrig.


An exclusive WIWAG ongoing feature.

The field seemed vast to a 7-year old who had looked forward to this day for two months.

The year marks the 60th anniversary of the first major league tryout for black players.


Bud Fowler is the first know black players on an integrated team.

of the '50s

Qualify as Grade A10.

First sports bar featured 12-inch Farnsworth TV.


Two unsuspecting vintage baseball fans rediscover a "National Treasure."
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BASEBALL LEDGENDS: The Booming Bats of the 50's Commemorative Collection include special bats from Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.

'Booming Bats' of the 50's qualify as Grade "A10"

DEM BUMS: Among the many groupings that this collection of bats afford, above is five members of the "Boys of Summer," including Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese. Also pictured is Gil Hodges' stick, who should be, but isn't, in the Hall yet.

Impromptu rediscovery of 42 Major League game-used bats from the '50's leads to nation-wide research pilgrimage

The discovery of a collection of game-used bats in the possession of our family for over 50 years was one of the motivating factors to develop WIWAG.

As we pulled each bat from the old refrigerator box in our parents’ garage, we realized that what was just a discarded tool of the baseball trade - and potential decoration for The Original Sports Bar in the early '50s - had taken on an entirely different significance in the new millennium.

We traveled the country to visit newspaper archives and used the internet as a vehicle to learn more about the true value of our find, and most of the “experts” in the field of sports memorabilia sought us out. The offers for the collection, sight unseen, boggled our minds, alerted us to the potential worth of the collection and motivated us to very deliberately research this relatively new phenomenon of authenticating and collecting game-used Major League bats.

SAY HEY! The Booming Bats of the 50's includes a 1954 Willie Mays Louisville Slugger.

We quickly learned that over the past few years there has been a meteoric rise in interest in the collecting of game-used bats. It turns out that there is a fairly closed network of only a handful of authentication experts who developed the authentication guidelines for this new industry. These experts are often aligned or affiliated with various sports memorabilia dealers and auctioneers, as well as bat manufacturing companies.

When we initially called Louisville Slugger for information on bat labeling and dating, we were told that they would not deal directly with us for any information about our bats and referred us to an individual who was purported to be the world expert in the field of bat authentication. Louisville Slugger’s bat authentication consultant did, indeed, turn out to be incredibly knowledgeable, the author of the definitive reference for collecting game-used bats, and very willing to evaluate our entire collection for authentication.

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Among the Booming Bats of the 50's Commemorative Collection are 16 members of the 1955 National League all-star team.

However, the fee for each individual bat authentication ranged from $75 for the no-name players to hundreds of dollars on a sliding scale depending on the estimated worth of the bat for the all-stars and Hall of Famers. With rare and historic significance attributable to incredibly valuable bats like Hank Aaron’s and Stan Musial’s, we thought it would be nonsensical and unnecessary to pay someone to establish what we believe is inherent in the history and story of the Booming Bats of the 50s.

Despite our frustration with our initial contact and dealings with Louisville Slugger, we persisted.  Our second contact with Louisville Slugger led us to a real expert at Hillerich and Bradsby, and the most delightful person you could ever meet.  Karen Devoto, Louisville Slugger's historian, has worked for Hillerich and Bradsby for 35 years. She holds the key to all information pertaining to player’s bat contracts, model numbers and cross-referencing of bat shipping records. With her patient and gracious assistance we were able to verify specific model numbers, contract time-lines and shipping information for the Louisville Slugger Booming Bats of the 50s. Anyone interested in the first-hand, fascinating history of the nuances of professional ball players and their bats must make a pilgrimage to Louisville and visit with Karen. We are profoundly grateful for her kind and cheerful cooperation on this labor of love that is WIWAG.

Using the accepted guidelines and criteria established by the experts in the industry, the bats would qualify as Grade A10 based on the following:

- Factory production details of each bat meets the model and proper labeling for the period between 1953 and 1955.

- All Louisville Sluggers’ authenticity verified by information provided by the official Louisville Slugger historian using contract, model number and shipping records.

- Physical characteristics of each bat show significant signs of use and other traits attributable to the player.

- All of the bats, except for Musial's (see Stan Musial profile), were cracked during use by the player. All exhibit ball and stitch marks on the barrel. (For example, the Duke Snider bat, with Roman lace tape on handle, exhibits traits specific to that player).

Freddie Buchholz began his baseball career in 1943 at age 5. All three of Freddie's brothers worked at Sportsman's Park and Feddie enjoyed being able to tag along and do odd jobs to help his big brothers out. In 1950, at age 12, he became the batboy for the visiting team when they were in town to play the Cardinals - and wore every National League team's uniform during the following six seasons. 
In 1951 he doubled up on his batboy responsibilities by working for the Browns when they played at Sportsman Park. Although the Browns left St. Louis after the 1953 season to become the Baltimore Orioles, Freddie stayed on as visiting team batboy for the Cardinals through 1955.

As a teen Freddie walked across the street to Palermo's Tavern after each ball game where he would meet his brothers, Don, Charlie and Vince to catch a ride home. Table shuffleboard was a popular bar activity of the time and the Buchholtz brothers were well known for their prowess and enthusiasm for the game. Although he was only in his early teens, Freddie became an excellent player under the tutelage of his older brothers and America's Origninal Sports Bar owner Jimmy Palermo.
Freddie began bringing game-used equipment to the tavern in 1953. "Jim asked me to bring over some name players," Freddie said. "So whenever possible I would bring some bats over to him to hang on the wall."
Freddie, now 67, is a successful businessman and philanthropist in the St. Louis area and has donated items from his impressive memorabilia collection to benefit charity.

FREDDIE BUCHHOLZ, batboy for both the Browns and Cardinals organizations from 1950-1955 is pictured here with infielder Kermit Wahl and catcher Matt Batts of the 1951 St. Louis Browns.

The bats’ overall appearance remains unchanged since last used by said players over 50 years ago. These bats were hung by loop string around the knobs and displayed in The Original Sports Bar at the time of their acquisition between 1953 and 1955 until the tavern was sold in 1966. They were then packed up in a refrigerator box and stored until rediscovered (see Discovery Story) in November of 2004. Any wear and tear that they exhibit is due to the usual jostling of three major residential moves over the period of 1965 through 2004.

All of these bats have unquestionable provenance and history with an unbroken/traceable chain of ownership. Each bat was brought to Vincent “Jimmy” Palermo, the proprietor of the Palermo family tavern located at 3701 Sullivan across from old Busch Stadium (Sportsman’s Park) in St. Louis, by Freddie Buchholz, the batboy for the Browns and Cardinals from 1950 to 1955. (See sidebar at right).

At Jimmy's request, Freddie started bringing broken bats from the Browns (through the end of the 1953 season) and Cardinal games over to the tavern late in the 1953 season to adorn the walls of the Original Sports Bar.

It's important to remember that in that era of baseball, a broken bat was just that: a broken piece of wood that was routinely discarded not a piece of sports "memorabilia." (Fortunately, the bats fit perfectly into the sports bar motif of Palermo's Tavern).

The bats sparked a considerable amount of interest from the tavern’s clientele, so Jimmy started a chronicle documenting the player and the date each bat was received to be able to speak to his customer’s inquiries about them.

The Palermo’s have owned and had all of these bats in their possession continuously since their acquisition between 1953 and 1955.

We have used the Booming Bats of the 50s as a platform for a nostalgic look back at WHEN IT WAS A GAME. Yes, this rare and unique Major League group of game-used bats, which serendipitously includes possibly the earliest preserved Hank Aaron bat in existence, is probably worth a small fortune. However, to a family like ours to which baseball has been an integral thread of our existence and identity, it is priceless.  

BASEBALL LEGENDS: The Booming Bats of the 50's Commemorative Collection includes special bats from Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Stan Musial. Above (Musial) and below (Aaron) are representative samples of hand-written running ledgers from Louisville Slugger which chronologically list the model numbers, length, weight and other personal specifications of bats used during their careers.

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