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A number of not particularly well reported stories have gone around recently citing a statement that Moscow's chief of traffic police gave to Tass in September of 2015, claiming that "500,000 baseball bats were sold in Russia" in 2014, and that "only one pair of baseball gloves and one ball were sold in Russia".

Some of his other statements are easily addressed. Baseball bats are certainly known to be used in road-rage incidents in Russia, as can be seen in a number of news reports and viral videos. His claim that "one hardly knows where to play baseball in Russia" is a bit more dubious, as the New York Times reported on the growth of Russian youth baseball leagues in 2003, and RT reported in 2009 that Russian baseball continued to grow.

Of course, the figure of "one baseball sold" seems ultimately unverifiable, even if there's been a drop in the sport's popularity. But what's most dubious is that the police official's anecdote is one which has circulated in similar forms for years. For instance, Ilya Naishuller's 2015 film Hardcore Henry, first screened just a few days after the Tass article's publication, claims that "Each year one hundred thousand baseball bats are sold in Russia, and at most 50 baseballs." Given that the film was completed before the Tass article and released after, it seems unlikely that the film or the police official's statement could have influenced each other.

Perhaps the earliest version of this anecdote that can be found online is in this thread, which quotes a now-defunct webpage as stating "More than 500,000 baseball bats, 3 balls, and only one baseball glove were sold in Russia in 2008." The webpage lists sources including several Russian and international news agencies as well as the CIA world factbook, but does not specify which source supplied the figure about baseball bats.

Given all this, it seems that the claim about hundreds of thousands of bats sold is circulating as a sort of urban legend. But it makes me wonder if there's any original, truthful source for this. Has anyone ever reliably reported on sales of baseball equipment in Russia? If so, can it be demonstrated that sales of bats for self-defense (or violent activities) greatly outnumber sales for sporting use?

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    I don't have any stats, but I can confidently say that 1. Baseball has pretty much zero popularity in Russia, it's a very obscure sport. 2. Baseball bat is a reasonably widespread self-defense attribute people hold in their cars. This claim doesn't seem to be that far-fetched to me at all... I know many people owning bats and not a single one of them used it for its intended purpose. I've never actually seen anyone playing baseball in Russia in my entire life. – sashkello Sep 8 '16 at 6:25
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    @sashkello totally agree. I have only anecdotal evidence but it is quite overwhelming, I personally know dozens of Russians who own baseball bat and no one who actually plays baseball and I do know a lot people who do different sports. – Andrey Sep 8 '16 at 9:22
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    The three balls and one glove statistic looks unlikely given there is a Russian Baseball Federation (website and Google translate ) and a national team in the European Baseball Championship since at least 1991 – Henry Sep 8 '16 at 12:06
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    There are local federations too, such as in Moscow (website and Google translate though not obviously updated since 2010) – Henry Sep 8 '16 at 12:12
  • More baseball bats are sold in the USA than are used in baseball, too. I'd say that more baseball bats are sold to MLB teams than are used to play baseball, too, since any team will have an extensive stock of additional bats for each player, at any time, while only a few get used at any time, so I'm not sure how telling that observation would be, in and of itself. – PoloHoleSet Sep 13 '16 at 17:20

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