Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Dick Durbin Saved the Wooden Bat

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In the late 1980s, there was talk that Major League Baseball might consider replacing wooden bats with aluminum bats, as a cost-saving measure. It never happened. For that, we may have our own Sen. Dick Durbin to thank.

    Durbin, then a congressman from Springfield, took to the floor on July 26, 1989, to deliver the most passionate speech we’ve ever heard from the normally controlled, colorless politician. It also featured the most cheering we’ve ever heard from the House floor. The sanctity of the wooden bat is a bipartisan cause.
    Video of Durbin’s speech has recently surfaced, and we present it to you here, along with a full transcript of his remarks.

     
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to condemn the desecration of a great American symbol. No, I am not referring to flag burning; I am referring to the baseball bat.

    Several experts tell us that the wooden baseball bat is doomed to extinction, that major league baseball players will soon be standing at home plate with aluminum bats in their hands.  Baseball fans have been forced to endure countless indignities by those who just cannot leave well enough alone.

    Designated hitters, plastic grass, uniforms that look like pajamas, chicken clowns dancing on the baselines, and of course the most heinous sacrilege, lights in Wrigley Field.

    Are we willing to hear the crack of a bat replaced by the dinky ping? Are we ready to see the Louisville Slugger replaced by the aluminum ping dinger? Is nothing sacred?

    Please, do not tell me that wooden bats are too expensive when players who cannot hit their weight are being paid more money than the president of the United States.

    Please, do not try to sell me on the notion that these metal clubs will make better hitters.
    What is next? Teflon baseballs? Radar-enhanced gloves? I ask you.

    I do not want to hear about saving trees.  Any tree in America would gladly give its life for the glory of a day at home plate.

    I do not know if it will take a constitutional amendment to keep the baseball traditions alive, but if we forsake the great Americana of broken-bat singles and pine tar, we will have certainly lost our way as a nation.