19th century baseball bats looked and felt different than today's baseball bats. They were generally heavier and considerably thicker in the handle and had more of a gradual taper from the handle to the barrel. They were made with or without knobs on the handle and on various parts of the bat would be painted "rings" that would reflect the team color. Many players made their own baseball bats from wood, without any specific shape or size. This allowed for a lot of experimentation, thus they created long, short, flat, and heavy baseball bats, and they eventually built a baseball bat with a round barrel. At the first baseball convention in 1857, the dimensions agreed upon were described as round, not to be more than two and one-half inches around in its thickest part and was to "be of any length, to suit the striker." In 1860, Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player published their opinion as to the best baseball bat standards. They suggested between thirty and forty inches and weighing about 48 ounces. Beadle's described the baseball bats as usually being made of ash but that maple, white and pitch pine and hickory were also used. A light baseball bat enabled the striker to have a quick bat and helped offset the "rapid pitching" that was popular. Beadle's did not recommend a baseball bat be less than 36 ounces. The Putnam Club's rules, in 1865, specified that the baseball bat was to be made of hickory or ash and was "about" 3 feet long, round, tapered and was to be between 1 and 1 half inches to three inches at the lower end. Although generally known as an "unwritten rule," the baseball bats length was not addressed until the rules for the 1868 season were agreed upon, which officially stated that the baseball bat could not be longer than 42 inches. The maximum length allowed today is still 42", though you probably won't see too many baseball players using it. Even though there was no rule regarding the shape of the baseball bats, most of the players used baseball bats with flat surfaces. In 1890, another rule suggested the round shape of the baseball bat and fixed the diameter to 2.75 inches at the end. In 1893, the second season of the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs, the baseball bat was no longer allowed to be flat on one side but was required to be round. The length was still limited to 42 inches and the thickness of the thickest part was still two and one-half inches. The thickness of the baseball bat was increased to two and three-quarters inches in 1895 and remains the same today. Baseball came to a new phase with the introduction of metal belts in 1970. Baseball bats made of aluminum became an instant success because they are lightweight, durable, and much faster than wooden baseball bats. This actually created harder hit balls. Many players, especially at the hot spot third base, and the pitchers mound can be seriously injured from hard batted balls from these types of baseball bats. Various types of aluminum baseball bats were introduced during the 1990s. Baseball bats made of scandium aluminum are still the most popular today. A great deal of research and money has gone into improving the trampoline effect of the baseball bat and to increase the size of the sweet spot (the place on the bat for hitting the ball). A double-walled baseball bat, a new design introduced in the 1990s, consists of an outer wall of scandium-aluminum and an inner wall of a composite material (often graphite), and a thick fluid or rubber between these two walls. Today, traditional wooden bats are made of maple, white ash, and bamboo. Nearly all of these wood baseball bat models are used in the professional baseball today.
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