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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
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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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  73 reviews
An unorthodox history of baseball told through the enthralling stories of the game's objects, equipment, and characters.

No sport embraces its wild history quite like baseball, especially in memorabilia and objects. Sure, there are baseball cards and team pennants. But there are also huge balls, giant bats, peanuts, cracker jacks, eyeblack, and more, each with a backstory
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  408 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Start your review 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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

"Baseball is more than a game. It's like life played out on a field." - musician Juliana Hatfield

True that, Ms. Hatfield. But while the bookshelves at libraries and stores are overflowing with bios on the prodigious on-field talent (Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, et al.), what about all of that inanimate 'stuff' behind the scenes? Happily, former Sports Illustrated journalist Steve Rushin - I am an ardent admirer of his Gen-X memoir Sting-Ray Afternoons from two years ago - i
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have always been a fan of Rushin's writing style; Rushin had a regular column in S.I. that he left about five years ago and I was as disappointed then as I was excited when he returned as one of the rotation of last page editorial columnists after Rick Reilly went to ESPN.

So, imagine my delight when this combined three of my favorite things: his writing, baseball and history.

It did not disappoint. I love books that rely heavily on careful archival research and take us back to a different time.
Jon Finkel
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rushin is one of the funniest, clever storytellers in any genre. Period. Loved this book.
Jim Melcher
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great fun to read. It's written very well and is full of fun stories. I was sorry when it came to an end. I hope there will be a sequel.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. From the title you might think it's all about kitsch, but Rushin does a great job using these items to tell the story of baseball. Thus this is about history, not collectables. Rushin has a great nose for surprising, intriguing, shocking, paradoxical tidbits. And of course a great ear for turns of phrase. He is always a joy to read. And if you love baseball, all the better, because this book is chock full of the sport's glorious past.
Anthony Nelson
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A charming tour through baseball history through its equipment, the book is mostly a series of anecdotes, but Rushin weaves in just enough personal history to give it an engaging throughline.
Tim Timberly
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball
Parts of this book were very good. I enjoyed the weaving of personal and family history with baseball. I wish the style was not so repetitive and direct, allowing the reader to find the ironies in the stories from baseball history. I also wish the book was a little better organized. But I did learn some about the things that are now a necessary part of baseball.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book by accident, and put it in the summer reading pile. It was a fortunate choice. I love random and agenda-less knowledge and this book is chock full. The history of the glove, the protective cup, baseball caps- and all told with amusing and detailed anecdotes. Thank you Mr. Rushin.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Filled with entertaining anecdotes there are still portions that seem overly long. And the error in retelling the Ray Chapman story (Carl Mays was a Yankee not a Giant) causes the reader to wonder what other errors are littered throughout.
Brad Angle
Lots and lots of fun baseball historical trivia. Needs better editing though, as the minutiae gets overwhelming. I normally love Rushin's writing but this time the flow gets bogged down with all the references to his research. We don't need to know every little factoid.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting, and well researched. A pleasure to read, a tome of knowledge that will delight any fan of 'America's Game'.
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A delightful baseball history read. If you enjoy indepth trivia related to baseball history, you ought to enjoy this look at the unusual stories Rushin has gathered.
Mike Simmons
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A good fun read for all baseball fans. Thanks Karin!
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great read for all baseball fans! Fans will learn the history behind many parts of the game such as history of the baseball, glove, concessions and team merchandise and even eye black! There are many great stories of past players and owners. You will also learn how baseball uniforms have changed through the century. And there's so much more.
Anyone who is interested in the history of baseball will love this book.
Heather Jacks
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
patrick Lorelli
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports-history
This is a baseball book about all of the items that go along with the game. Like gloves, men before the 1900s did not use gloves they used their bare hands. This did not change until the early 1900s and even then there still were a few men who still thought it was being a weakling for using them. The same goes for the gear catcher’s use first the face mask then the chest protectors and chin guards. This went for the umpires as well. The book goes into detail from the people who came up with the ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it
There's a certain popular concept right now in nonfiction which is to tell a history of something through objects related to it. I don't know if this really fits that description but it is a good way to tell some interesting and rarely told stories.

I saw this and thought it looked fun, and there is a lot of great trivia here and even stuff the biggest baseball fan won't know. It's also such an unusual and assorted collection of stories that it wouldbe interesting to non-sports fans as well.

My bi
Kevin Payne
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Lots of interesting stories and historical facts. For a long time bats were not standardized - Nap Lajoie used a bat with two knobs, one several inches above the end of the bat. Jackie Price, a minor league player could hang from a miniature trapeze take batting practice upside down and hit to all fields. He could also hold three balls in one hand and pitch them to three different catchers, or throw two balls at once, one a fastball, one a curve, or throw two balls from the catchers position wit ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I prefer books that flow seamlessly. This, on the other hand, is a bunch of brief anecdotes.

The author does do a good job transitioning from one idea to the other. But the constant shifting bothered me. To further shake things up, he switched from general baseball anecdotes to his own personal stories about the game. He also seemed fixated on the pre-1957 New York baseball teams, and I wish he would've put more focus on the other 27 teams on the league.

It's fine for toilet reading, but this boo
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received this book free through Goodreads.

I have been a cubs fan since my father was able to bring me to Wrigley Field, so I grew up on baseball and was thrilled to read this book. It was very interesting and unique and told amazing and strange stories about the American sport my family loves. I read a lot of it aloud with my father and he was equally enthralled and truly enjoyed the book. It is a great book to read together with fellow baseball fans, whether that be family, friends or coworke
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a totally different perspective on the history of baseball. I love the in-depth background on the history of baseball equipment, and how every piece of equipment and ephemera surrounding the game plays a part in how baseball developed over time. The way that the chapters are organized are very well done as well, as each chapter takes a major item (bat, glove, souvenirs, etc.) and tells how that item evolved over the course of the game’s development, and how that item changed the game int ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love Steve Rushin's writing (except, oddly, I did not like his fiction book The Pint Man). He is one of the many brilliant Sports Illustrated essayists/writers. Now he is back to his strength -- non-fiction writing, meticulously researched and hilariously written. Warning, if you do not like baseball, you will probably not like this, despite the excellence of the writing. Me, well, I like baseball, and I liked this!
Oct 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed with this book, which had much potential. The writing is poor, and at times sappy. Rushin seems to have trouble staying on a topic with consistency, as he rambles here and there. He also has an odd (negative) obsession with the Bush family, telling us multiple times that George W owned the Rangers (once was enough for those that didn't know), and ranting about his policies. I wanted to read a light book about baseball, not a political diatribe.
Mark Simon
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
The history of baseball as told through objects, though think more ballpark organs and batting helmets than baseball memorabilia.

Good book, though among Rushin's work, I'd give "Road Trip" a higher (very high) recommendation.

This one moves a little slower and is more interesting in some parts than others ... I would say a hard-core historian will enjoy this book more than the average baseball fan.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I won this book from Goodreads. I liked this book and thought it was a great source for baseball-related trivia! I've always liked bobble-heads, so it was interesting to read how these and other items related to the sport came to be. I found this book to be filled with quite interesting little factoids!
I also love it when writers, especially of non-fiction or narrative-pieces, incorporate humor into their books like Mr. Steve Rushin did in this work.
Exapno Mapcase
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a Goodreads First Reads review.

Want to go to a baseball museum without leaving home? Then get this book. This is a wonderful trip down memory lane with each chapter reflecting a different aspect of baseball. From the balls to uniforms, to safety equipment, that profiles a very interesting man. The transitions between the stories are almost seamless and lend a wonderful narrative to the tales.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful offbeat history of baseball. Essentially the book told the story the game through the development of the equipment and other "sacred items of baseball". You learn of the development of the baseball mitt, bobblehead dolls, why beer is not sold in bottles, and much more. The author in a fun way tells of the way baseball evolved, not only as it was played on the field but how the game was enjoyed in the stands
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
My wife won this book in a goodreads giveaway. She gave it to me as a Christmas gift. I really liked the historical information about the game of baseball. Many of the stories were interesting and fun. I just felt like the book was all over the place. It bounced around a lot going from one storyline to another and then back again. If you are a fan of baseball it is definitely worth the read!!
Chris Dean
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's not often that I find myself repeating parts of what I read to my family, but I did that quite a few times with this book. Whether it was Pete Browning, Bill Doak, Danny Goodman, Barney Doyle, or Gladys Goodding, this book was loaded with "I never knew that" moments even for the most knowledgeable baseball fans. You will not be disappointed with this book in the least. By far, one of the better baseball books I have read in quite some time.
Kenn Staub
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting take on baseball history...the story of the game as told through various items of equipment, memorabilia, food, etc. Though it covers a lot of familiar ground I did find several nuggets of information I had never encountered before. The main problems with this book were the author's rambling style and his attempts to be too cute with his humor. Overall a unique perspective on the games past.
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After graduating from Bloomington Kennedy High School in 1984 and Marquette University in 1988, Rushin joined the staff of Sports Illustrated. Over the next 19 years, he filed stories from Greenland, India, Indonesia, the Arctic Circle and other farflung locales, as well as the usual nearflung locale to which sportswriters are routinely posted.

His first novel, The Pint Man, was published by Doubl

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