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The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects Hardcover – October 15, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rushin, a longtime acclaimed writer for Sports Illustrated, chronicles the history of baseball through the items used by players (baseball bats, sanitary socks), enjoyed by fans (beer and hot dogs), and sported by both (baseball caps). A lot of the fun in Rushin's exhaustively researched, very readable history comes from learning about the people behind the innovations. The Dodgers' advertising v-p Danny Goodman, who made popular souvenirs such as the bobblehead to baseball, saw the stadium crowd as a captive audience willing to buy anything, from underpants to aprons. Foolproof Taylor spent years unsuccessfully promoting his protective cups and helmets. His sales method? Skeptics would kick Taylor, who thankfully was wearing his fortified handiwork, in the groin or smash him in the head with a bat. Baseball merchandise, which has long been an important part of the game, was until recently generally dismissed by players and sports writers alike. Players once scoffed at sunglasses and baseball gloves, which makes sense considering how many of them endured day games in broiling flannel uniforms. Rushin's exuberant prose describes the continuous evolution of baseball paraphernalia. 40 b&w photos. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Oct.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jimmy and Ralph “Buzz” Boyle are author Rushin’s grandfather and great uncle, respectively. Buzz played three seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, while Jimmy got into one game for one inning for the New York Giants. When Rushin, the 2005 National Sportswriter of the Year, inherited Jimmy’s glove, a passionate and eclectic exploration of baseball ephemera was launched. Rushin approaches his passion with a mischievous gleam in his eye, a point of view captured perfectly in this anecdote-filled account of the sport’s odd corners. He covers the evolution of the baseball glove, from a less-than-manly novelty in the game’s earliest days to its current status as standard equipment. We also learn that the first protective baseball headgear was inflatable. The prototype was dismissed more on the basis of vanity than utility: it looked stupid. Male readers will grimace their way through the development of the “cup.” Lots of painful injuries, especially to catchers, preceded the initial research by a catcher known as Foulproof Taylor. There’s a chapter on the rowdy reintroduction of beer to ballparks after Prohibition, and organ music to serenade patrons on their way out of the park after games. Of course, the organ music has given way to prerecorded rock music; reliever Trevor Hoffman began the tradition by having AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” played when he entered a game. In an era of sports literature when societal significance and statistical algorithms aren’t always as fun as we’d hoped, Rushin has reintroduced readers to silliness. Read it with a smile. --Wes Lukowsky
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Later Printing edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031620093X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316200936
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me preface the review with a disclaimer. I have enjoyed reading Steve Rushin's work since his earliest days at Sports Illustrated and still consider his initial book,Road Swing,one of my favorites. As a fellow bald guy raised in the Midwest who has been a fan of all sports, particularly baseball, since earliest childhood I find Rushin's interests and ability to weave sports into the fabric of his life exactly similar to my own experiences. Therefore, I purchased this book knowing that I was going to like it. I was not disappointed.
Beginning with the introduction, the author was able to capture the exact mixture of arcane history, personal memoir, genuine humor, and nostalgia that bonds American families and sports fans together so uniquely. His impeccable curiosity and writing skills make the book difficult to put down once started and fuel a considerable fund of trivia upon which one can draw whenever conversation lags.
His brand of gentle good humor and bonhomie is in the best American tradition of Frank Deford, Roy Blount,and even Mark Twain, and I heartily recommend reading this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This excellent book is must reading for every fan of pro baseball. It is 288 pages concerning the origins of aspects of trips to the ballpark which have been around since before we were born.

When you find yourself at a bar with friends, needing something to contribute to the conversation, the facts you will learn from this book are sure to entertain everyone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A "why didn't anyone think of this before" book about the paraphernalia that makes baseball what it is. The histories and evolutions of the ball, bat, glove, uniforms, novelties and oddities that have become part of the game's past and present are all recounted with Steve Rushin's patented clever flair. I did not expect to discover the origin of the term "jockey shorts" in this book, among many other delightful bits of trivia. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and any baseball fan would also.
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Format: Hardcover
If ever you wondered; how jock straps came about, or where did Bobble-Heads come from, or what’s up with that four fingered glove at AT&T Park; then Steve Rushin’s book, The 34-Ton Bat, is for you. It is the history of baseball, told through the evolution of the objects and oddities—(375 of them, to be exact) that make baseball, America’s pastime.

Steve Rushin has been writing for Sports Illustrated for over 25 years, and has accumulated a few awards along the way, including National Sportswriter of the Year. His family comes from a baseball tradition that spans over 100 years, with not so distant relatives having played in the majors, and he himself, securing his first job at Met Stadium, where he ‘stabbed dogs’, ‘pulled sodas’ and ‘cupped corn’. A more deft storyteller and a more passionate voice cannot be found to bring these baseball objects to life, to make them dance like the candlesticks in Beauty & The Beast, to help us know and understand our greatest American pastime and, above all….inviting us to remember.

From baseball gloves to bats; pipe organs to Prohibition, score cards to stinky urinals and beyond; the stories are layered one upon the other, at a dizzying rate. Filled with quirk and tradition; pride and pomp, riots and ridicule, one can’t help but see the game in a new light, and love it in a new way.

The 300 page book is an engaging read for anyone. But, if you’re a fan of baseball, you will find yourself doing what I do. I place the book, never far from my reach on my desk. My novelty baseball bank, (which came into existence at Yankee Stadium during the forties) sits on top. Tim Lincecum, in Bobble Head form stands next to it,–(Bobble Heads coming about in the 1800’s, but the first baseball shaker appearing in the fifties).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you love the game, read this book. Very well written and fascinating insight to aspects of the game that you don't read often, if ever. The origins of the cup, seat width, paper beverage cups, batting helmets, and so much more. I loved it and well read it again in years to come.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My husband is a baseball nut and his thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. SO many interesting facts, and several laugh-out-loud stories. He told his book group about it and they are all excited to use it for their next session.
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Format: Hardcover
Author Steve Rushin writes that his goal in "The 34-Ton Bat" is to "see the history of baseball--and to glimpse the history of the larger world it inhabits--in the game's objects." He wants to bring life to the inanimate objects, such as bats, balls, uniforms, caps, hot dogs, beer, souvenirs and ballpark organs.

Rushin proves that he's a master at unearthing interesting historical facts, sharing them in an engaging manner and seamlessly segueing from one topic to another.

In discussing baseball's innovations, such as the catcher's mask and batting helmet, Rushin writes that "early adopters were ridiculed but after an uncomfortable pause--universally copied."

Chapter 6, "The Decrepit Urinals of Ebbets Field" is an excellent example of Rushin's ability to seamlessly segue from one topic to another. Although he starts out discussing the urinals, he moves to the sale of beer at the ballparks, then a history of players and umps being pelted with beer bottles, the history of beer's connection to baseball teams, beer advertisements on the radio and beer companies as team sponsors. And, finally, onto the history of playing The Star Spangled Banner at baseball games.

Readers will find something new and interesting on almost every other page. Rushin does a splendid job of research (you wonder where and how he found all the information) and bringing the material to life. The story of baseball has never been more entertaining.
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