Baseball people couldn’t find anybody to put in the Hall of Fame this year, the eligible crowd having regularly bathed together in a tub of steroids and Human Growth Hormone during its heyday. But that doesn’t mean fans don’t still love the game. Peanuts and Crackerjack never grow old. It’s timeless aspects of baseball that people turn to when all is bleak in the big show. And what is the most timeless thing of all? The bat. All the truly great baseball legend is accompanied by its crack. Sure, Don Larsen once pitched a perfect game in the World Series, but for all its splendor, that game was woefully silent. But Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “shot heard round the world”, which gave the Giants a pennant and readers a novel by Don DeLillo, is what resounds. Babe Ruth? Switched from a pitcher to a slugger.
That’s why last year nearly 250,000 people (a record) visited the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Kentucky, where the Hillerich & Bradsby Company has been crafting wooden baseball bats since the 19th century. Adults pay $11 to go in and see the magic–and that’s even after they’ve had a look at the 68,000 pound bat outside (which only Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds are said to have been able to lift, which, incidentally, is why they’re not in the Hall of Fame). The factory produces 1.8 million bats a year.