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                    Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Flat Tip Wiffe Bats

                                           The Evolution of the Wiffle Bat

                                                        by Jerry Driggs


     The game of Wiffle ball was invented by David N. Mullany at his home in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1953

when he designed a ball that curved easily for his 12-year-old son.   It was designed due to the relative lack

of space available and the need for a baseball like game that would not break windows or injure the players. 

Being the son of a minor league pitcher Mr. Mullany strongly believed it was dangerous for young arms to

throw curve balls so he invented a ball which could be curved without the dangerous arm motion required to

make a baseball curve.  The game was named when his son and his friends would refer to a strikeout as a "whiff".


      I will endeavor to keep this dissertation short answering 3 questions. 

               1)  How has the Wiffle bat changed

               2)  What is a reasonable price for the vintage bats

               3)  Are the vintage bats better than current bats ?


The History of the Wiffle Bat and Their Values


         The Wooden Wiffle Bat


     The first version of Wiffle bats were wooden, approximately 32” long and very skinny, thus very light –

so kids could swing them.   They duplicated the broomsticks and thin pipes used in street stickball games. 

The very first year bats are denoted by their logo of Wiffle King – hence my nickname on most Wiffle

related sites.  These bats are very rare.  I purchased my namesake on eBay a couple of years ago for $50,

but the going price is $150.


     Wooden Wiffle Bat were manufactured From 1955 until 1972.   They came standard with the single strip

of black tape around the handle in the spirit of stick ball.   Wooden bats manufactured after 1953 can

regularly be found on eBay for $30 or less.


         The Plastic Wiffle Bat – The Original                                                                        Return to Top

     The first plastic Wiffle bats were manufactured in 1959.  The first version was a 2 piece snap together

design that was quickly determined to be dangerous as the pieces could separate upon impact and

become flying projectiles.  Only a very limited (<10 by official accounts) were sent out into the market

and according to the most reputable sources only a single one or two of these still exist.  They are so

rare I have never seen even a picture of one, but did stumble upon a toy site that claimed one exists at

the Fairfield, CN Wiffle Archive room and is considered priceless.

         The Plastic Wiffle Bat – Generation 1 – 1959 to 1974                                              Return to Top


     The 2 piece bats were quickly replaced by a single piece version.   They are identified by their stick Wiffle

logo, no Made in the USA logo, no bumps on the handle, but like the wood bats, a single row of electrical tape.   

These bats are extremely rare.


     I have managed to find 10 of these bats in the last 5 years – new, unused, still in the original packing. 

In the age before Wal-Mart, the local hardware store was the repository of athletic equipment.  One of my

treasured childhood memories is going with my Dad to buy my very first ball glove from the Kiefaber’s

hardware store on Bridge Street in the late $60's.   I paid the princely sum of $4.59 for it.  


     Family hardware owners being frugal by nature, many of the unsold Wiffle bats were placed in the attic

or back room at the end of summer, to be retrieved the next spring and put out with the new Wiffle bats for

sale.  Occasionally these were left in the attic or stuck behind something and forgotten.  Recently I found a

cache at a family hardware store in Minnesota  after the family decided to sell out when the Father passed

away.   Hidden in the attic was a stash of these bats, placed up there in 1967 when the proprietor switched

from Wiffle to Whamo products.  For 45 years these plastic gems collected dust, until I inquired, the son

checked the attic and viola…a deal was struck.   The bats came with the original $ 1.19 price stickers.


     The manufacturing process in the 1960’s was not as sophisticated and quality controlled as today and

plastics chemistry likewise was in its infancy.   The plastic raw material was heated to be injected into the

forged dies.  As the molds heated up from the hot plastic, more plastic was required to permit the bats to

maintain their structure, thus the bats in a run became successively heavier through the process until the

shift ended, production stopped for the day and the molds allowed to cool.  As such, there can be a wide

variety in the relative weight of these Gen 1 bats.

     Gen 1 bats are rarely identical in construction.   Some have holes in both ends, some have holes in neither. 

Some have plastic stem marks on the barrel end, some on the knob end.   I have seen one that even had a glob

of plastic at the very tip of the barrel end on the inside – end weighted if you will.  These bats also show the

marks of an inexact manufacturing process when held up to the light.  There are dark patches of thicker plastic

easily discernible on the inside of the barrel.


     In 5 years of diligent searching I have seen 1 used Gen 1 bat advertised on eBay.  For the 10 bats or so

of this vintage I have procured, I have paid from $75 to $150 each, but if you find one for $75 you best buy it. 

Due to their age (~ 50 years) procurement of a Gen 1 bat is much more likely to be an unused new bat rather

than the used variety, so I am uncertain what a used Gen 1 is worth, but figure $50 - $75.


     These bats are commonly called “flat tips” because the barrel end is not as rounded as the current version,

but is instead flat on top of the barrel.

         The Plastic Wiffle Bat – The Black Bat – 1975 only                                              Return to Top


     In 1975 the oil embargo dramatically effected the production of plastic in the US.  Wiffle was impacted

by this shortage and was forced to alter their plastic recipe, resulting in the normal yellow color not being

available.  As a result all Wiffle bats produced in 1975 were jet black.  The have the stick Wiffle logo, no

made in the USA logo, no dimples on the handle and no electrical tape. 


     These bats were not very good for hitting with as their makeup makes them more flexible and bendable.

They are the most rare of the single piece Wiffle bats.  As such, good condition bats will be priced from

$150 - $200.


      The Plastic Wiffle Bat – Generation 2 - 1976 to 1982                                              Return to Top


     After the oil embargo ended in 1976 Wiffle began producing the yellow bats once more.  They changed

the design of the bat to incorporate dimples on the handle for better grip.   Although no bats officially

produced before 1976 are supposed to have dimples on the handle, I have seen several which have

dimples and documentation proving they were produced before 1976.   Generation 2 bats were made until

1983.  In good condition a gen 2 bat will command $50 to $80 for someone who knows what they have.  

    Due to their age Gen 2 bats are not commonly found at garage sales or in friends / families garages. 

They are still considered “flat tips” and are have a very solid feel to them.

      The Plastic Wiffle Bat – Generation 3  - 1983 to 1991                                            Return to Top

     In 1983 Wiffle once again changed the design of Wiffle bats, adding the Made in the USA to the stick

Wiffle logo.   The dimples on the handle remained and this bat is considered the last of the “flat tips”.

In good condition they will sell from $30 to $65.  These bats are rare, but can be found at garage sales and

with family stashed in garages and attics.  They are solid and made of a heavier plastic than current bats

but are generally not quite as solid feeling as Gen 1 and 2 bats.


      The Plastic Wiffle Bat – Generation 4 – 1992 until Present                                  Return to Top

     In 1993 Wiffle began producing the bat we are familiar with today – rounding the tip of the barrel and

changing the logo to a bubble Wiffle.   These bats sell for around $5 with a ball included.


Are Vintage Wiffle Bats Better Than Current Bats ?                     Return to Top

      This is a very controversial question.  Just look at the website of any league where official Wiffle bats

are a requirement for play and you will see a forum topic with many replies and opinions as to the difference

vintage bats make in hitting.

      At best, this is a difficult question to answer with a single word, so I will attempt to avoid subjective,

opinion based statements and focus on objective facts.


      First, good hitters can hit with any bat.  A solid example of this in our own league is the Gookie Dawkins

Experience.  They played the first 3 years in the league without access to a “flat tip”.   During this period

they hit a combined 472 HRs – more than every other team in the league except the Legends.   This despite

the reality that many league teams have had access to multiple flat tips for the entire 3 years of league play.  

     I trolled back through the records and added up the times the 3 teams I know of who have access to flat

tips have defeated GDE in games.  In 3 years  there were a total of 11 losses to teams with access to flat tips,

and 9 losses to teams that did not have them.  

     As evidenced by those stats, your chances of beating GDE was not much better using a flat tip than

without one and it could be argued the 11 losses came at the hands of the best 2 other teams in the league,

irrespective of the bats they used.


     So, to at least try for objective facts I conducted an experiment - an attempt to quantify the distance a ball

travels after being struck by both a flat tip, and an ordinary bat.   The machine shop at the building I manage

patented a long trajectory skeet thrower that worked perfectly for my trials.  I attached a Gen 2, Gen 3 and

current day Wiffle bat to the arm, constructed a ball tee, used brand new, numbered Wiffle balls and struck
each of the 20 balls 5 times with each of the 3 bat, recording the distance each ball travelled in the air.


     The shop has a motion speed sensor to calibrate the arm velocity so I was able to ensure the arm was

operating at the same swinging velocity each time.


     The results were somewhat surprising.   When the solid side of the Wiffle ball was struck by the Gen 2 bat

the balls travelled an average of 2.5% farther than balls struck with a current Wiffle bat and .8% farther than
balls struck by a Gen 3.

     On average, a ball travelling 100 feet after being struck by a new Wiffle bat would travel 101.8 feet with a

Gen 3 bat and 102.5 feet with a Gen 2 bat.  A measurable if not astounding difference.


     The dispersal array was much tighter when the hole side of the balls were struck by the bats.  On average

balls struck by the Gen 2 bat travelled only .2% farther than balls struck by a current Wiffle.  There was no

significant difference in distance between a Gen 2 and Gen3 bat when the balls were struck on the hole side

of the ball.

     On average, a ball travelling 100 feet after being struck by a new Wiffle bat would travel 100.2 feet with a

Gen 2 of Gen 3 bat (100 feet 3 inches).  I think all would agree this difference is so small as to be negligible.


     So there is a difference – enough to make a difference on balls hit right to the fence – assuming the ball

was struck on the solid side.  I presume striking balls somewhere between the hole and solid portions of the

ball would fall in the middle of the dispersion pattern – about 1’ of difference in length.


     Now for the small print CAVEATS.  I have already acknowledged there can be a significant difference in

the solidness of Gen 1 and 2 bats.  I have even heard owners claim there is a difference as to where the ball

is struck on the bat – i.e., some bats have “sweet spots” that hit the ball farther than when it is struck elsewhere

on the bat.   My testing did nothing to prove or disprove either of those assertions.


     My Gen 2 bat was toward the more solid end of the spectrum and my experience is the differences between

Gen 3 bats is much smaller than in previous generations due to improvements in plastics and manufacturing

technology.   Again, I have no empirical evidence to support this assertion due to the general lack of Gen 2

and 3 bats to subject to testing.  So I will qualify the above tests by saying, all other things being equal, if I had

fairly average examples of the Gen 2, Gen 3 and new Wiffle bats (and I am confident I did) and if the location I

chose on each bat to strike the balls was “average” for the barrel of that particular bat (I think a reasonable

assumption) then I believe my testing would be found to be trustworthy -  in the ballpark you might say.

     I did not test the bats under multiple atmospheric conditions – and we all know that on some nights when

the air is light balls naturally carry farther.   So, in those conditions it a reasonable assumption that the increase

in distance travelled would remain approximately proportional across the various generations of bats.


     There is, however, a uniformly accepted area where Gen 1, 2 and 3 bats are vastly superior to current bats. 

Before we owned a flat tip we went through several new Wiffle bats per year.  A good hitter will cause the barrel

of a new Wiffle bat to warp in a weekend of use.  We have used them until they are nearly flat on one side. 


     This will not happen to a Gen 1, 2 or 3 bat.   If taken care of, they will last a lifetime with no visible warping

that I have experienced.


     The Conclusion of the Matter ?                                                                           Return to Top

     Is there a difference ?  Absolutely.  Will a vintage bat turn you into a HR monster ?   No way.  If you are not

a HR monster without one, you will not be one using a vintage bat.   Our team is a pretty good example.   Neither

Phil, Ben or my HR’s per bat average went up significantly after we finally obtained a vintage bat – one we named

Destiny because after much searching Phil finally found us one - buried in a creek bank up to its handle, discovered

while weed eating at his Dad's place.   

     I would make the case our on base percentage went up appreciably – but not our HRs per bat.   Levi’s average

went up dramatically – but any observer would acknowledge that growing from 5’5” to 6’+, adding 40 lbs, 2 solid

years of weight lifting and size 15 shoes probably had more to do with his HR numbers sky rocketing than switching

to a vintage bat did.


     That being said, we love our vintage bat.  We went to great pains to obtain one, then several more.  Finding the

first was the hardest.   Since finding it we have won several tournaments, finished in the top four at London twice,

won Redsfest and finished in the top 4 there 3 times.  Would those have happened without a flat tip ?

      Search me.  Does the bat give us confidence we can compete with the big boys ?   Undoubtedly.   Was the

hundreds of hours spent searching worth it ?   Yep, would do it again in a heartbeat.   Would we part with our

beloved Excaliber ?   Not on your life...Unless you want really bad to make me rich, don't even ask.

      But that is just us, and we are Wiffle ball crazy.  Who else do you know who has 4 lighted Wiffle ball fields in

their back yard ?   So you probably should not gauge the worth of a vintage Wiffle bat by our word.   We succumbed

to the virus named Wiffle ball long ago and are certifiably committable at this point.


       I would love to hear the testimonials of the multiple teams that began using vintage bats in the past year – to

compare them to what our experience has been.


Fill out my online form.

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  Name and Date    Comment

Ty Marshal   1/27/2013


 I love the way your league keeps getting bigger each year.  Keep the articles coming, it's a

long time til we can see the ground in upstate NY.  By the way, do you have any old bats left for sale ?


Thanks Ty, I might be able to part with 1 more.  Give me a call or drop me

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