LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The famed home of the Louisville Slugger was once located in the Smoketown neighborhood.
While the buildings are long gone, when greats like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson were hammering them out of the ball park with Sluggers, one H&B employee was starting her long and amazing career.
Lina Hess began working at Hillerich and Bradsby after high school, making a whopping $25.31 for 40 hours of work in June 1948.
“I said, ‘Mother, I want to go back to work at Hillerich and Bradsby,’ so she asked the lady in charge and the lady said, ‘I'll be glad to have her, but she's got to get out of her timidity,” Hess said.
It worked! She's not timid anymore.
“I was always kind of shy until I started working with all those men,” Hess said.
And now at age 90, she's still here, a woman who became a trailblazer in the male dominated sport – spending 73 years with one company.
Lina spent many summer and fall days at Parkway Field where the Louisville Colonels played as a young girl.
“Some of these [players] lived at our house when my mother was keeping boarders,” Hess said.
That famed team left the family a signed baseball as gratitude.
At H&B, she rose the ranks from billing to credit manager, and saw her future husband walk through those doors.
A love story that played out with an really old school twist, Hess and longtime H&B employee Don Hess had kept an eye on each other but didn't marry until 1997. Why?
“I was Baptist, and he was Catholic, and his mother said he had to marry a Catholic girl, so eventually after about 20 years we got married,” Hess said.
Don died three years after the marriage, so Hess' bat family made sure she stayed busy. She returned to work when chairman of the board, Jack Hillerich, asked her to. Hillerich was eight-years-old when Hess started working here.
“She supported me all the way through my career as president of the company, she and her family did,” Hillerich said. “She's been here the whole time, and my fathers, and my grandfathers.”
Now, Hess greets visitors on Fridays and Saturdays.
“People come through that door and they see her 70 years of work here, and she can talk to them about anything they want to know, past and present and she is an authority,” Hillerich said.
And she has no plans to go anywhere.
“I just feel better keeping myself going,” Hess said.