Maple Bats

In Pet Peeves on June 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Was watching the Giants game the other night.  Bats were exploding everywhere and one shard almost took the eye out of home plate umpire, Brian Runge. At that point Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper turned to his broadcast partner, Mike Krukow, and said “partner…it is only a matter of time..” Kuiper was of course referring to the likelihood that one of these days someone is going to be seriously injured when a maple bat breaks and a piece of it goes in the wrong direction.

Not only are maple bats dangerous, but it distracts from the visual enjoyment of the game when players and batboys scatter on the infield every couple of innings to pick up the pieces of a shattered bat. The careless ease with which today’s player breaks a bat and quickly replaces it with another bat also de-romanticizes the game. Part of the lore of Joe  Dimaggio’s 56 game hitting streak is that he used a total of 3 bats !  The first bat he used for 41 games until it was stolen between games of a double header in Cleveland, an incident that made national headlines until the bat was returned a few days later. One of these bats sold at auction a few years ago for an absurd amount of money.  But what a great story !  Can’t see this happening nowadays when players go through bats like Kleenex.

There is a common perception that balls hit with maple bats travel further because maple is more dense than ash. For this reason so many players nowadays prefer maple over ash. Still you would think that MLB would outlaw these bats simply because of the risk they pose to players, coaches and spectators.  The fact that ballparks nowadays are smaller than those of yesteryear means that players will still hit their share of home runs. Moreover, the “dead ball era” tells us that baseball is not only about home runs.

But the league does not act because they are focused solely on making the game as entertaining as possible.

In the meantime we flinch with every broken bat.


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