For about 150 years now, ballplayers, wood carvers and inventors have been coming up with ideas to improve a hitter’s chances in the batter’s box. One of the more unusual attempts came just over a century ago when an inventor unveiled the “banana bat”.
Emile Kinst (sometimes referred to as Emil Kindt) was a Chicago inventor who tried to get big league clubs interested in a new design aimed at allowing the hitter to dictate where a struck ball might go.
Kinst’s invention looked like the baseball equivalent of a jai alai cesta. Its shape was normal up to the trademark. Then, it curved in the shape of a banana.
One of those bats is about to hit the auction block. Collector and baseball historian Dave Stalker obtained the bat from the caretaker of the daughter-in-law of its original recipient, a turn of the century player named Billy Sullivan. It was recently consigned it to Robert Edward Auctions and will be sold next spring in the company’s annual catalog auction. The opening bid will be $1,000.
"I’ve never seen or even heard of another,” said REA President Rob Lifson. “What strikes everyone is the workmanship, shape, and quality of the bat. It’s like Salvadore Dali designed it, and it really looks and feels like a work of art. But at the same time you can’t help but think about if and how the shape will help the batter. Will it help him hit the ball where he wants? Will it send every hit to left field? Is this bat even legal to use?”
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