True Americans (i.e., baseball fans) know the most beautiful product of the wood turner’s art is not a bowl or a bed knob, but a baseball bat. The elegant simplicity of its tapered form delights the eye, drawing it along the length of the barrel to the knob, where the shape concludes in a subtle curl, like the capital of a Doric column.
Tampering with such a design would be like sawing the pinnacle off of the Washington Monument, or painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
But that’s what Grady Phelan means to do. A 1979 Webster Groves High School graduate who lives in Mehlville, Phelan, 53, manufactures and sells a bat that in one particular area violates all the time-honored canons of design: the knob. The ends of his bats are not circular, but oblong, and their position relative to the barrel is not square, but canted about 45 degrees.