“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
These famous words from Art LaFleur as The Babe in The Sandlot ring true today, and like the iconic character, Louisville Slugger is a living legend in the world of baseball.
Their bat-making enterprise began in the late 1800s when John Andrew “Bud” Hillerich, the eldest son of the Hillerich German woodworking family, took an interest in baseball & began crafting bats in addition to the shutters, ship interiors, & other wood goods being produced by his family’s Louisville-based business.
Legend has it that the first professional bat made by Bud was for Pete Browning, superstar of Louisville’s major league team, the Eclipse. (Raise your hand if you didn’t know we had a pro team called the Eclipse.)
Despite pushback from his father, who was more interested in swinging butter churns, Bud persisted & eventually they went all in on bats & the name Louisville Slugger became their registered trademark in 1894, which was, by the way, the nickname of Pete Browning, their first big client. From that point on, they only swung for the fence.
Beginning in the early 1900s the company began signing professional players as the sole provider of their game bats & since that time the collection of names who only swing with Sluggers has grown to include legends like Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter & countless more!
The Hillerich production prowess joined forces with business-savvy Frank Bradsby in the 1900s as well & the company we know as Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was born. They enjoyed swimming success, branching out to aluminum bats in the 70s, & eventually catching the attention of Wilson Sporting Goods who purchased the Louisville Slugger brand from the company in 2015.
But, fear not! H&B continues to produce Louisville Slugger bats for Wilson & they still own & operate the iconic facility downtown. In fact, the current President & CEO is the great-grandson of Bud, the first Louisville-born Hillerich to whom we owe the legacy that we enjoy in our city today.
As one of the many hallmark brands housed in The Ville, Louisville Slugger draws visitors from across the nation, & the world, to our hometown. Their story is one of interest giving way to an idea that birthed a business & built an industry powerhouse. It is captivating, inspiring, & exciting to explore. From the Bat Vault of famous custom sluggers for MLB’s top names from over a century to the factory tour itself & specialty exhibits like the 25th Anniversary of The Sandlot (on display through September 9th), the Louisville Slugger experience is a must for all Louisvillians & their guests!
I had the opportunity to visit this morning (for the 73rd time…which may be an exaggeration, but not too much…I LOVE BASEBALL) & was every bit as enchanted as the first time my Dad took me to the old facility as a kid. I’m pretty sure I still have that first mini-bat, & I know I’m not the only one. The way the game of baseball tugs on our American heartstrings, Louisville Slugger makes us proud of our city & the stories of success it has hosted over generations.
So, #GetGoing & grab your family & friends for a trip to Museum Row for a day at the Slugger Museum. There’s a 120-foot bat waiting to greet you for a fabulous photo op. While you’re there, say hello to Benny, the Jet, Rodriguez & The Babe! Tell them Yes Louisville sent you & enjoy!