#Shortstops: Covering the Bases

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Cassidy Lent

In the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection of roughly 40,000 three-dimensional artifacts, a visitor wouldn’t be surprised to find a few bases among the equipment that is donated every year.

What might be surprising, however, is that on many of those bases – especially from MLB games – is the name of Jack Corbett, who was a professional ballplayer himself back in the early 1900s.

Corbett, born in 1888 in Columbus, Ohio, was an infielder who played from 1908-1916 for a number of different minor league teams in the southern reaches of the United States. He owned several minor league teams during his lifetime, including the El Paso team. It was while he was the owner of this team that he sued Major League Baseball for an anti-trust violation. It came about after he had attempted to sign a few Mexican League players, but wasn’t allowed to due to earlier court rulings and Major League Baseball’s Reserve Clause.

Corbett also was the executive vice president of the Global League. This league made an attempt in 1968 to become the third major league, but dissolved in this effort.

Corbett lived to be 85, dying on Dec. 14, 1973, leaving behind his wife, Margaret, and a couple of sisters. In his obituary from The New York Times, which appeared in the following day’s paper, much is written about his legal battles against Major League Baseball, but nothing is said about his other accomplishment, baseball bases.

In 1938, Corbett patented the Jack Corbett Hollywood Bases. MLB started using them sometime around 1939 and continues to use them to this day. The bases are now produced by Schutt, a sporting goods company that features products for baseball, football, softball and lacrosse.

That means that, when George Brett got his 3,000th career hit, a single at Anaheim Stadium against the Angels, on Sept. 30, 1992, he stepped on a Jack Corbett base. And, when the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves faced off on July 3, 2016 at Fort Bragg, the field had Jack Corbett bases on it. The base that Brett stepped on, as well as one of the bases from the Fort Bragg game, are now a part of the Museum’s collection.

So, the next time you are watching a Major League Baseball game, keep a close eye on the bases. If the television cameras get in close enough, you might just see “HOLLYWOOD BASES, JACK CORBETT, SCHUTT SPORTS” and have a better idea about the man behind those bases.

Cassidy Lent is the manager of reference services at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series