Take Me Out to the Ball Game: J. W. Moose Patents Early Baseball Bat

2 Jun 2015

Patent No.377,656 baseball bat drawing by Dr. John W. Moose, filed 9 Sep 1887.

“To all whom it may concern:Be it known that I, John W. Moose, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Mount Pleasant, in the county of Cabarrus and State of North Carolina, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Base-Ball Bats; and I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear and exact description of the invention, which will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same…”

Dr. John Wesley Moose of Mount Pleasant had an idea to improve upon the wood baseball bat. In the 1860s, there were almost as many types of baseball bats as there were baseballs. And like early pitchers, who made their own balls, early batters were known to sometimes whittle bats to suit their own hitting style. For many years there was room for experimentation: some bats were flat on one side and some were hook-shaped rather than straight. In 1884, the most famous name in baseball bats made its debut when 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich took a break from his father’s woodworking shop in Louisville, Kentucky and created an all-wood bat which became known as the Louisville Slugger. Although it eventually set the standard in the industry, the all-wood bat was never patented, but became what is known as a patent prior art: all baseball bat patents are on inventions that improve or change the bat – and the very first was that of Dr. Moose’s hollow core bat in 1888!

With his application, filed on September 9, 1887, Dr. Moose made a trip to New York City, where he went in the interest of his baseball bat. Dr. Moose claimed that his new invention was “everything that a professional player could wish.” By creating a bore throughout the length and inserting a metal tube, the intention was to provide a means in which bats could be strengthened without adding weight. His hope was “that it wouldn’t be long before it would be on sale so its merits could be tested.”

The still young sport of American baseball did not yet have set regulations. In 1893, the second season of the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs, the bat was no longer allowed to be flat on one side but was required to be round. The length was limited to 42 inches and the thickness of the thickest part was two and on-half inches. The thickness of the bat was increased to two and three-quarters inches in 1895. This is more or less the standard today, as defined in the MLB rule book:

(a) The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.

The decision by professional baseball to stay with the solid wood bat disqualified Dr. Moose’s bat, but the baseball bat was not Dr. Moose’s only patent. On April 27, 1888, The Concord Times reported that “Dr. J. W. Moose left on last Monday in the interests of his patent for managing kicking horses and mules.” The invention intended to confine the movements of the hind legs of an animal to keep them from kicking.

The entrepreneurial John Wesley Moose was born 7 Feb 1853, the second of nine children to George and Elizabeth “Hannah”(Moody) Moose in Stanly County. He graduated from North Carolina College (later Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute) in 1877 and from the college of physicians and surgeons in Baltimore in 1879. He returned to Mount Pleasant and opened a practice located in the H. C. McAllister & Co. Drug Store. In 1882 John married Rosa Wadsworth, then a teacher at Mont Amoena Seminary, and built a home on Hwy. 73 just east of Main Street. John and his brother Archibald Walter Moose also founded the A. W. Moose Drug Co., initially located on the corner of E. Franklin St. & S. Main St.

In 1888 John and Rosa’s young family intended to follow other Moose family members to Texas, but the plan had to be postponed when Rosa suffered from a severe case of typhoid fever. The following year, they made the trip with a newborn baby and settled in Parker County, Texas. There they remained and Dr. Moose continued to practice medicine for the next 30 years, until his death in 1919.

Although professional baseball did not adopt Dr. Moose’s baseball bat, his is the first in a long list of composite and hollow-core patents: No. US377686 is the first one cited in all subsequent applications.