Although I cringe whenever a TV ad runs for one of those “invention submission” companies, in doing my recent baseball search I had an image of a sure-fire winner of a commercial:
That’s right, folks. Joe Carter, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (and some would say a borderline candidate for Cooperstown), filed an application in 1994 for what later issued as U.S. Patent No. 5,492,425: “Applicator for grip-enhancing substances”. (And yes, Carter was drafted by the Cubs, who followed their Brockian tradition of trading away future stars…)
The specification reads well. In particular, the background goes into a nice history of Rule 1.10(b) from 1872 through George Brett’s 1983 pine tar incident, and also describes the messy process by which players would apply the substance to their bats.
Carter thought there was a better way. As reported by the trade publication, Rubber World, in October 2004:
Major league baseball player Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays teamed up with polymer researchers from The University of Akron to create a new product that gives baseball and softball players a better grip while batting. Made entirely of polymers, Tack Tube is a foam rubber shell coated internally with a tacky polymer which is applied to the handle of aluminum or wood bats by twisting the unit from side to side. It is said to give players a better grip that is an alternative to the pine tar traditionally used. The polymer product, for which patent coverage has been sought, was unveiled by Carter during a press conference at UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. Tack Tube will be marketed by Carter's Edmond, OK-based Joe Carter Enterprises.
Apparently those Akron polymer press conferences weren't hitting the mainstream media back in 1994, since this is about all you'll find on "the Google." But another trade magazine, Paper, Film & Foil Converter, had an in-depth piece on Carter’s invention in December 1995. As they describe it, Carter conceived the foam tube that could be wrapped around a bat handle to apply a sticky substance. Then he teamed up with the U Akron lab to create the pine tar substitute. The rest is patent history.
The timing is interesting, too. The application was filed in July 1994. That’s just before the baseball strike that ended the season. Which means that Carter most likely was working on this during the time period between his famous homer and spring training a few months later. In other words, precisely when he should have been at Disneyworld.
From the looks of it, however, the TackTube wasn’t much of a success. You won’t find it sold (or discussed) online, and Carter’s patent expired for failure to pay its four-year maintenance fee.
But you also probably won’t find a bigger name player-inventor.