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Snowflakes fell in Chicago over the weekend. The local lite music station plays only holiday tunes instead of only Kenny Loggins. Landscapers uprooted the otherwise perfectly fine trees planted along Michigan Avenue in favor of triangular ones that lend themselves better to the hanging of ornaments. Something is happening. Something wonderful.

The holidays approach — Hanukkah begins Dec. 21 — which means Big League Stew is on the lookout for the neatest baseball-themed gifts for enthusiasts of what's still our national pastime. Welcome to the first installment of Big League Stew's Holiday Gift Guide '08!

Would you like some fresh ground pepper, sir or madam? Time-out! Let me get my official bat.

Eliminate the awkward gap between salad prep time and taking your hacks in the on-deck circle by stepping up to your plates with a pepper mill shaped like a baseball bat from Cole & Mason. Nothing goes with baseball like an invigorating game of pepper. And nothing tops off dinner like a few generous twists of a pepper mill.

The two have been combined in a truly awesome baseball/dinner experience.

The King Pepper Baseball Bat Mill ($50 on Amazon) is a working grinder that also happens to be about as big (28 inches long and 36 ounces) as the bat your favorite big leaguer uses. The barrel and handle are made of beech, harvested from sustainable forests in Denmark, and the stainless steel grinding mechanism comes with a "lifetime" (actually 25 years) guarantee. The whole deal is manufactured in England, though curiously there seems to be no such thing as a cricket bat pepper mill. As they say over there, "What?!" A warning: it's "not one for the rounders or baseball pitch!" Too bad for White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who loves grinders.

The reviews are in: "Fun, but utterly useless." — the London Sunday Mirror

OK, so there are some practical limitations on a pepper mill that's nearly 2 1/2 feet long and weighs 2 pounds. That's why there's the King Pepper Junior ($34.99 on Bed Bath and Beyond). It's only 19 inches long. Much easier to handle when grinding or bunting.

Here are several more outlets where you can pick up a King Pepper or King Pepper Jr:

Target

Skymall

Wireless

Happy holidays from Big League Stew!

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