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Visit To My Favorite Place

October 29, 2019

Well, one of my favorites. I mean, if it’s a question of my kid playing in a football game, or my daughter’s wedding, or birth of a child. But, barring any of those, this has to be one of my favorite spots.

I’m in Louisville, Kentucky. This is where the Kentucky Derby is run every May. It’s also the site of the Muhammad Ali Cultural Center, and his birth place and site of his grave. It’s also the headquarters of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I’m not here for any of those sites.

This is the location of Hillerich & Bradsby. You’ve probably never heard of them. You may have seen their name if you ever held on older wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Hillerich & Bradsby is the company that makes Louisville Slugger baseball bats. Their factory is in Louisville.

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You might be surprised that the company that makes the famous bat isn’t named for the bat. In fact, Hillerich & Bradsby is an old company. It predates the baseball industry. It used to be a furniture maker. But, back in the 1884 a player named Pete Browning broken his bat. In those days, players made their own bats. (Probably directly from a tree.)

It happened that a guy named Bud Hillerich was skipping work at his family furniture store that day. Like people still today, he was playing hooky to go watch a baseball game. When Pete Browning of the local team broke his bat, Hillerich realized that a baseball bat wasn’t that much different than a bedpost, that he could make in his father’s furniture shop.

And Hillerich & Bradsby had made their first baseball bat. Soon other players were asking for bats to be made. Eventually, there was more money in baseball bats than in making beds and dressers.

The first professional contract was signed in 1905 and was between Hillerich & Bradsby and Honus Wagner. Honus, in addition to being a great player, also holds the record for the worlds most expensive baseball card.

The most famous player to sign a contract with Hillerich & Bradsby was the great Babe Ruth. Ruth signed a unique contract. Rather than a time limit, or even a contract that ended at his death, Ruth gave Hillerich & Bradsby the right to use his name and likeness to sell baseball bats into perpetuity.

The museum they have at the factory has plenty of Ruth memorabilia. Including one of the three bats he used during the 1927 season when he set the record for 60 homeruns. The bat is unique, because Ruth carved a notch into it every time he hit a homerun.

Modern players who use Louisville slugger get their signatures up on a wall. The Hall of Famers get their names on a black plague. Two Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr (2016) and Edgar Martinez (2019) are on the black plaques.

One of the unique features of the museum and factory is the “giant bat.” It guards the front entrance like a metal-painted-like-wood sword of Damocles. As always, I spent too much. But, it’s not a everyday I get to visit one of baseball’s shrines.

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Oh, and why the name Louisville Slugger? That was the nickname for Pete Browning all the way back in 1884.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

One Comment
  1. Eric S Scott permalink

    So did you put your commemorative mini-bat in your checked bags? We visited the factory back in 2014. The mini bats help us in stuffing our sleeping bags further back on the deep, high storage shelves we keep them on…..

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