Larry & Lee Ann's Journey travel blog

Arriving in Louisville to visit the museum...

Interesting 'stations' as we make our way down the block to the...

Yep, we took our turn for a photo opp too!

The company originally produced butter churners. In fact, the owner did NOT...

Bowling pins were a big part of their business as well...

Pete Browning was known as the 'Louisville Slugger'....

Hey batter, batter, batter!!!!!

Pretty cool to swing Mickey's bat honey!!

Larry had a discussion about the swwet spot with one of the...

Great life sized figures in the museum. Note the bats overhead too!

A little 'Joe' info...

More...

A signature bat for Joe...No block lettering here!

Women in the game? You bet!

Plenty of informative displays to see...

Even the drawers are loaded with bats. You just pull them out...

There are nice murals when you come out of the theater...

I think they are cool!

The Signature Wall back out in the front lobby...

As you can see, they are grouped by years...

Did you know that actor Kurt Russell attempted a baseball carreer first?

Last weeks standings...

Bat samples. You can purchase any one of these and have it...

Hope you enjoyed our little tour. No photos allowed inside the manufacturing...


Last Thursday we visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, located in Louisville, Kentucky of course. This museum showcases the history of the Louisville Slugger brand of baseball bats made by Hillerich & Bradsby, and of baseball in general. Louisville Slugger began making bats in 1884. Over the years, the factory has moved several times, including spending 23 years across the river in Indiana. In 1996, the factory moved to its current location. The Museum is distinguished from surrounding buildings by the 120 ft tall baseball bat leaning against it. The bat is 34 tons and made of hollow carbon steel, simulating the wooden bat used by Babe Ruth in the early 1920's which was all of 34 inches long.

According to company legend, the first pro bat was turned by Bud for Pete Browning in 1884. Browning was a star on Louisville's professional American Association team–the Eclipse. On a spring afternoon Bud, then seventeen years old, witnessed Browning break his favorite bat. Bud offered to make a bat for his hero and Browning accepted. According to the story, after the young wood shop apprentice lathed a quality stick from white ash Browning got three hits with it in the next game. Because of his tremendous hitting power, Browning was known as "The Louisville Slugger" years before the Hillerich family trademarked the name for their bats.

Despite Bud’s passion for the product, his father wanted nothing to do with making bats. His business was built on making roller skids, bed posts, tenpins, wooden bowling balls and a very popular, patented, swinging butter churn. However, Bud Hillerich continued to improve the manufacturing processes of the new bat business, inventing a centering device for a lathe and an automatic sander. Their baseball bat business grew. The bat was first known as the Falls City Slugger, (a reference to Louisville's location at the Falls of the Ohio River), but the brand name was changed to Louisville Slugger and registered as a trademark in 1894. Bud Hillerich became a partner with his father in 1897 and the name of the firm was changed to J.F. Hillerich and Son.

We started our visit with interactive exhibits before taking the bat factory tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. He threw out facts & figures like you can't believe. I did my best to keep up with him and hopefully I got at least some of it correctly! Today, the factory makes close to 2 million wooden bats a year and more than 1 million bats from aluminum and composite materials. Not just for major leaguers but for minor leaguers, other amateur players, and plenty of them for souvenir or corporate promotional use. Their major league bats are still the flagship product, and they are made on a special computer numerical control (CNC) machine, operated by the most experienced bat makers. Louisville Slugger began using the CNC in 2002, mainly because it was the most modern technology available. Prior to that, the company used specialized lathes, several of which are still in operation at the factory.

The bats are carved out of what are called billets, which are cores of ash or maple that are 37 inches long and 2.75 inches in diameter. They can have a variety of weights and that's what makes them different. After the bats come out of the CNC or the lathes, they are branded. The company uses special coding, such as "G174," which would mean that it's the 174th model of bat made for a player with a last name beginning with G.

I found it interesting that if a player has a contract with Louisville Slugger, his signature is branded onto the bat. If a player has no contract, their name is applied in block lettering. After the branding, which is done by a burning-on process for light-colored bats, and by pressure-applying silver or gold-colored foil onto dark-colored bats, they are sanded down to a smooth surface. Then, the bats are dipped in lacquer, either black or clear, to give them a shiny surface. There were numerous bats hanging to dry today. Some were obviously recently dipped, as they were still dripping off the bottom.

One of the coolest things in the factory was a bin against one wall that had the signature plates of the more than 8,000 players the company has had under contract over the decades. There were several historical examples of bats, such as an 1880s Pete Browning bat they recently discovered and the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit his last home run as a Yankee. There is also a bright pink bat, created in 2006 to benefit the fight against breast cancer, that fans have grown accustomed to seeing players swing on Mother’s Day! The bats are branded with the MLB Authentic® logo on the back of the barrel, a first for Louisville Slugger bats. As we moved from point to point during the factory tour these examples were passed around for closer inspection. Made it interesting and sparked questions and comments from the real 'bat lovers'!

Well, that's it. Apparently the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory succeed in generating the same must-see status possessed by great ball fields and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. We've now been to both and enjoyed them both immensely. We think you would too. A big thumbs up from the McCormick's!



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