Guerrieri: How maple bats kicked ash and conquered baseball

From SABR member Vince Guerrieri at Deadspin on August 28, 2018:

As Barry Bonds pursued the single-season home run record in 2001, no detail went uninterrogated.

His clubhouse space—three lockers, complete with recliner and big-screen TV—was written about. His exceptional plate discipline (a .515 on base percentage and a then-record 177 walks) drew awe. No less an august authority than the New York Times evaluated broadcasters’ home run calls and wondered if they would stand the test of time for historic value.

People even wanted to talk about his bat—a maple creation 34 inches long and weighing 31.6 ounces, from a small Canadian company that had only been approved as a licensed manufacturer for Major League Baseball four years earlier.

For decades, baseball bats had been made almost exclusively of ash. But in the mid-1990s, Sam Holman, a sort of Johnny Mapleseed of baseball bats, started experimenting with maple, giving samples to several players for the nearby Toronto Blue Jays. Eventually, one found its way into Bonds’ hands. He liked the way it felt, and the results seemed self-evident.

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Originally published: August 28, 2018. Last Updated: August 28, 2018.