The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobble Heads, Cracker Jacks, Jock Straps, Eye Black & 375 Other Strange & Unforgettable Objects is an awfully long title. Reading just the title, I wondered how good the book could be. It sounded both humorous and random. I suspected it might be a silly collection of tidbits, not something worth finishing unless you are crazy for baseball trivia. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that the author Steve Rushin has written an entertaining yet serious book with stories that connect to make a point.
The message of Rushin's book is that baseball has evolved over time in ways that can not be seen just in the stories of seasons, teams, and players. When you look at the equipment, stadium food, promotions, and other things associated with baseball, you learn how the sport has been shaped by social and technological trends, and at the same time, you see how the sport has contributed to the culture. Ruskin makes this point well by weaving stories about key innovations with accounts of his own experiences as a young employee of the Minnesota Twins.
Sports fans are the prime audience for The 34-Ton Bat, but it could serve as an interesting introduction to American culture as well. I liked it a lot.
Rushin, Steve. The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobble Heads, Cracker Jacks, Jock Straps, Eye Black & 375 Other Strange & Unforgettable Objects. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 343p. ISBN 9780316200936.