Book Review: The 34-Ton Bat by Steve Rushin


One of the perks of writing about baseball is getting baseball-related books to read and review. A while ago, I received a copy of The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects by Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin.
Image courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

Baseball has one of the richest histories in all of sports. Rushin examines all of the objects that surround the game and weaves them together in The 34-Ton Bat. It’s an unconventional history, so to speak, that is told through 379 objects.

Rushin uses his personal experience of growing up in Minnesota and working concessions at Metropolitan Stadium as the starting point. Some of the objects include the ball found in the World Trade Center rubble to his own experience of pulling the tarp across the field.

Rushin’s research is comprehensive and he brings life to baseball paraphernalia, personalities, and stories with humor and affection. It’s not only a history of the game but the larger world inhabited by baseball.

This engrossing fact-filled account is perfect for sports buffs and history fans alike.

Before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the national anthem, it was a staple at baseball games before. Rushin uncovers how nachos became a ballpark staple back in 1978.

Brooklyn Dodgers fans will be upset to know that Ebbets Field bathrooms played a big role in the move west to Los Angeles.

There’s also the story of Bud Hillerich, whose family’s business is best known for the Louisville Slugger.