Many of you know I love the whiff of historical riddles and I thought there was another mystery on my hands when we learned about an obscure silver bat trophy that Iowa State played for in the 1890s. I was happy to see that the trophy was safely stored at the ISU archives and when Lori and I visited Ames, we made sure to see the trophy in person. The trophy was originally conceived as a traveling trophy between the colleges of Iowa and it was agreed the trophy would be permanently kept by the first team to win the state baseball “championship” in three different years. Below, we can see the Ames nine got off to a great start by winning the very first two years: 1893 and 1894. The bat features a game image along with the yearly winners of the series from 1893 to 1902.
A closer look at the scene engraved on the barrel of the bat shows some fine details. Note the catcher’s stance–which was correct for 1893. Catchers didn’t crouch lower until later in the evolution of baseball.
The first appearance for the University of Iowa was in 1895. During that era, they were known as the State University of Iowa. Other schools that competed were Drake, Cornell, Grinnell, and Iowa College, which later became UNI.
The last entry on the trophy was Grinnell’s winning season of 1902. Although I didn’t have time to double-check this, I presume Iowa State won it for the third time in 1903 and retained final possession of the bat.
Below are two ISC teams that played for the silver bat (1895 and 1901, respectively).
The silver bat quickly became a coveted item within the various colleges in Iowa. The entry below was from the 1896 Bomb yearbook.
As a side note, the silver bat trophy was just one of many trophies floating around Iowa State during the early days. Look at the wide variety of trophies that could be won in intramural competitions.
Some still exist, but many have been lost to the ravages of time.
During our photo session with the silver bat trophy, I noticed a whopper of a trophy in a random yearbook. Now what could that be for? The hunt continues.