Here is the original story that ran in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science’s newsletter about Ray Riley and my boning bat adventure beginning in May, 2011:
The E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center received a strange request recently: cow bones to hone baseball bats for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jeff Savell, Regents Professor and E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chairholder, received a call from friend Frank Seale, a retired coach and administrator who lives in College Station. Seale stated that he needed some cow bones for the Diamondbacks to hone their bats. Savell found out that one of Seale’s former players from his days in Austin is Don Baylor, long time Major League player and manager, who is now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks. Baylor knew that Seale had cows and thought that he may have cow bones lying around in the pasture. Fortunately for Seale, no cow bones were to be found and so he thought about contacting Savell to see if he could provide some bones for the team.
Savell got with Ray Riley, Manager of the Rosenthal Center, to begin the process of figuring out what the purposes of the bones were. Searching the Internet revealed that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees used to sit in the dugout and rub their bats with cow bones to hone them so to close the wood pours and make the bats denser. Riley found a photo of another famous Yankee, Joe DiMaggio, rubbing his bat on a cow’s shin bone to hone it. Some articles refer to “boning” or “to bone” a bat, and some of today’s boutique wooden bat manufacturers use cow bones to hone bats before they are shipped to their customers.
In June 2011, an array of cow bones, both cooked and uncooked, was assembled and shipped to the Diamondbacks for their use. A couple of weeks later, Savell along with graduate students, Haley Grimes and Melanie Moore, were in the Phoenix area conducting research, and through Seale, received an invitation to come to the Diamondback versus Cleveland Indians game as guests of Baylor. After the game, Baylor invited them to the batting cage area behind the dugout to see the Aggie cow bones in action. One of the cow femurs was attached to a sawhorse-type device between the batting cages and dugout for the players to hone their bats. Baylor demonstrated how bats are honed, and he said that several players wanted to have similar devices made for them to hone their bats during the off-season.
Do honing bats with Aggie cow bones work? Well, since June, the Arizona Diamondbacks have moved into first place in the Western Division of the National League. Maybe there is something to the magic of honing bats or maybe there is magic to the Aggie cow bones. Can requests from the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros be far behind?