Tag Archives: Honus Wagner

Americana: Louisville Slugger

We're not sure who J. Fred Hillerich of Louisville made his first Slugger for, but we know it's been used by the greats from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter. Uploaded by farm3.static.flickr.com.

J. Fred Hillerich of Louisville, Kentucky, wanted nothing to do with baseball bats. On that, everyone agrees. He focused his woodworking shop on more profitable things, such as bedposts, tenpins, and a swinging butter churn. A patented swinging butter churn, no less.

His son, Bud, had other ideas. Maybe he made the first bat for a local pro named Pete Browning. Maybe he made it for a visiting player, Arlie Latham of the St. Louis Browns. Or maybe he made it for a little green man from Mars. Does it matter? What America knows is that baseball players all the way from Babe Ruth (Great American Things, Aug. 3, 2009) to Derek Jeter have relied on Louisville Sluggers.

Uploaded by apwa.net.

One factor in the company’s success has been that amateur players could swing a bat endorsed by the top Major Leaguers. Honus Wagner was the first to sign a sponsorship contract, which was also the first product endorsement in American sports history.

Of course, each Louisville Slugger is unique. The heaviest ever ordered was 48 ounces, used by Ed Roush of the Cincinnati Reds. The lightest came in at only 30 ounces – Billy Goodman of the Boston Red Sox used it in 1950 to win the American League batting crown. And Al Simmons used the longest bat, at 38 inches.

It’s with a heavy heart that I report that Hillerich & Bradsby (the corporate name of the manufacturer) also makes – it really pains me to say this – aluminum bats as well. No doubt the aluminum bats make the profit that allows the company to continue making wood bats, when few amateur groups still use them.

I still remember using Louisville Sluggers in my youth baseball days. Ah yes, the many home runs that…oh, all right, the many doubles I hit with my Al Kaline and Richie Ashburn models…

Oh, and Carrie Underwood reminds us of another use for these bats:

Sports: Baseball Hall of Fame

The centerpiece of the Hall of Fame is the first-floor gallery, featuring the plaques of all 292 members. Uploaded by sports.espn.go.com.

Today’s post is another that honors two interconnected ideas – in this case, the museum in Cooperstown, New York and also the selection of players who are enshrined there. While these two are related, they are still separate entities.

It was said that Cooperstown became the site of the Hall of Fame because Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball there. But he really didn’t. And that was pretty well established by the time the museum opened. In reality, local people who knew Cooperstown needed an economic boost in the midst of the Depression conceived the idea for the Hall.

A gallery featuring the plaques of all 292 Hall of Famers is the centerpiece of the museum. That’s 203 former Major League players, 30 Negro League veterans, 26 executives or pioneers, 19 managers, and nine umpires. The museum is full of fascinating baseball artifacts, as well as a variety of exhibits. These include “Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball,” “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” “The Records Room,” and many others.

Uploaded by paulmunsey.com.

The first five players selected for the Hall were in its first class (1936) were Babe Ruth (Great American Things, August 3, 2009), Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner. Until 1946, elections were held every three years, but have been conducted annually since. While the qualifying criteria have changed from time to time, a player has to have participated in at least part of 10 seasons and been retired for five years to be eligible.

In addition to biographical plaques of its inductees, the hall includes a baseball museum that has a collection of balls, bats, and other equipment, baseball cards, trophies, and photographs. Its research library contains a complete set of baseball guides, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, record books, photos, tapes, and phonograph records.

If you love baseball, making a pilgrimage to Cooperstown has to be on your bucket list. The biggest crowds come each year when new members are inducted, and a host of other HOF players appear. If you want to go this year, circle July 23-26 on your calendar…