LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- No matter where you’ve heard it, you know the name. The Louisville Slugger is more than a baseball bat. It’s a history and a reputation that was born in Louisville. It’s become an important part of Louisville’s history and the history of America’s favorite pastime.
The original “Louisville Slugger” was Pete Browning, an accomplished player for Louisville’s original professional team, The Louisville Eclipse, in the late 1880’s. The story goes that Pete broke his bat during a game and a young Louisville teenager named Bud Hillerich offered to make him a new one in his father’s woodworking shop.
“Bud’s dad didn’t want anything to do with baseball,” said Anne Jewell, the executive director of Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. “He didn’t think there was any profit to be made on it.”
His dad was wrong. Since the first bat was made in the factory in 1884, millions more have rolled out. The bats used to be hand-carved on machines one-by-one.
“It was pretty intense labor back then,” remembers Danny Luckett who has worked in the factory for 42 years. “You had a quota… and they had to be right.”
That changed in the 1990’s when machines started doing the carving on their own with the dimensions entered by computer. What used to take 20 minutes to make are now turned out in less than a minute.
“We still make the same thing, but we do it in a different way,” said Luckett. “It’s a lot different and a lot more efficient than when I started here 42 years ago.”
The game has changed and so have the bats. But the tradition remains the same.
Each bat gets “burn branded” with a logo, placed in a specific spot to help players hit the “sweet spot,” the most solid part of the bat. The bats are still hand-dipped in paint one at a time.
The Louisville Slugger is the most widely-recognized baseball bat in the world. The factory turns out the instrument that players like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter depend on to play.
“There is nowhere else on Earth that I can imagine a Louisville Slugger be made besides right here in Louisville, Kentucky,” said Jewell.