Baseball is called America's National Pastime, and Louisville Slugger is the name of the most famous and popular wooden bat employed by professional ballplayers to smash singles, bash doubles, belt triples, and pound home runs in a ballpark.
The roots of the Louisville Slugger date to 1884 and involve John A. "Bud" Hillerich (1866–1946). Hillerich's father operated a woodworking shop that produced bedposts, bowling pins, handrails, and ornaments. At the time, most ballplayers whittled their own bats and often owned only one. The story goes that Hall-of-Famer-to-be Pete Browning (1861–1905), playing for the Louisville Eclipse of the American Association (the forerunner of the National League), broke his bat during a game. Additionally, he was in the middle of a batting slump. Young Hillerich, who was just eighteen at the time, happened to be at the game and offered to produce a bat for Browning. The ballplayer agreed, and Hillerich spun one out of white ash, to Browning's specifications. The following day Browning busted out of his slump, getting three hits in three times at bat, and requested that Hillerich produce additional bats. Soon other ballplayers began ordering Hillerich's product. At first, they were known as Fall City Sluggers, but in 1894 Hillerich copyrighted the name Louisville Slugger, which was imprinted in an oval on every bat. Each ballplayer's signature also was burned into each bat, allowing him to keep track of his lumber.
In 1905, another future Cooperstown inductee, Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop Honus Wagner (1874–1955), became the first professional athlete to earn endorsement money for allowing his name to be linked to a product when he signed a contract with Hillerich that resulted in bats with his name burned into them to be sold in stores. Ten years later, the Hillerich factory was destroyed in a fire. During the rebuilding process, Frank W. Bradsby (1878–1937), a former buyer of athletic equipment, was hired to market the bats. In 1916, the company name became Hillerich & Bradsby (H&B).
To this day, H&B still produces bats for major leaguers, designed to the specifications of each ballplayer. The history of the company—and the history of its baseball bats—is chronicled in the Louisville Slugger Museum. Located in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, visitors to the museum can observe actual bat production. Despite the present-day use of aluminum bats by schools and Little Leagues, H&B produces hundreds of thousands of wooden bats per year. The company also produces approximately seventy-two bats per season for each major leaguer.
For More Information
Arnow, Jan. Louisville Slugger: The Making of a Baseball Bat. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
"Louisville Slugger." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/louisville-slugger
"Louisville Slugger." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . Retrieved January 15, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/louisville-slugger
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.