The Story of Louisville Slugger Bats


In many ways, the storied 132-year history of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat began in the talented hands of 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich. Back in the 1880s, Bud was working at his father’s woodworking shop in Louisville Kentucky.

Legend has it that Bud, a lover of baseball and a player himself, slipped away from work one afternoon in 1884 to watch Louisville’s major league team, the Louisville Eclipse. Bud was in the stands as the team’s star, Pete Browning, mired in a hitting slump and broke his bat.

Sensing an opportunity, Bud invited Browning over to his father’s shop where he offered to make him a new bat. With Browning at his side giving advice, Bud hand-crafted a new bat from a long slab of wood. Browning debuted the bat the very next day and got 3 hits.


Browning told his teammates about his new bat, which sent a surge of professional ball players to the Hillerich shop. Yet Bud’s father had little interest in making bats; he saw the company future in stair railings, porch columns and swinging butter churns. For a brief time in the 1880s, he even turned away ball players.

But Bud persisted; he saw the future in bats. His father, pleased with his son’s enthusiasm, eventually relented. The rest is baseball history.

In 1894, Bud Hillerich took the business over from his father, and the name “Louisville Slugger” was registered with the U.S. Patent Office. In the early 1900s, the growing company pioneered a sports marketing concept by paying Hall of Fame hitter Honus Wagner to use his name on a bat—a practice continued today with Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and many other professional athletes across virtually all sports. By 1923, Louisville Slugger was selling more bats than any other bat maker in the country. Legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig all swung Louisville Sluggers—the #1 bat of the most popular sport in America.


Some 120 years have passed since Bud Hillerich crafted that very first bat for Pete Browning. Since then, Louisville Slugger has sold more than 100,000,000 bats, making it without question the most popular bat brand in baseball history. Louisville Slugger continues to dominate the game in both wood and aluminum bat categories with 60% [LA1] of all Major League players using Louisville Slugger. In the past decade, many national college baseball champions have also hammered their way to the top with Louisville Slugger bats.

In recent years Louisville Slugger has gone far beyond bats, piloting innovations in performance technology by creating fielding and batting gloves, helmets, catcher’s gear, equipment bags, training aids and accessories. In addition to on-field performance products, Louisville Slugger offers personalized, miniature, commemorative and collectible bats.

Imagine if Bud Hillerich had listened to his father and continued to make butter churns. The world would have missed out on the most influential bats in the game.


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