Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory has added more legendary artifacts to its lineup, thanks to a long-term loan from the greatest slugging catcher of all-time, Cincinnati Reds legend Johnny Bench. The three prized possessions span Bench’s 17-year career, from his first full season to his final home run.
Two of his storied Louisville Slugger bats and one of his 10 Gold-Glove Awards are now on display in the museum’s main gallery. Guests can admire Bench’s commemorative bat from the 1968 All-Star Game – his first of 14 appearances in the Midsummer Classic – and marvel at the bat he swung to hit his last of 389 career homeruns on September 17, 1983. The Gold Glove on display is the fifth he earned in his career, awarded for his defensive performance in the 1972 season.
These items, along with many others from Bench’s personal collection, were part of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory’s 17th Annual Live Auction with Hunt Auctions in November 2020. After the auction, in a surprise twist, one of Bench’s closest friends came forward as the buyer of many significant pieces, a heartwarming gesture that moved Bench to tears. In collaboration with his friend, Bench and his family decided to loan these historic artifacts to several museums across the country so they can be shared with fans. The other selected museums are: The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, and the Johnny Bench Museum in Binger, Oklahoma.
“What better place for some of my favorite mementos to land than the very home where my bats were born?” said Johnny Bench. “Louisville Slugger was with me every step of my career, together we launched a lot of hits, homers, and very special memories. That makes Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory a perfect partner during this rewarding stage of my life. I can focus on my family and know that these historic items are in good hands where fans can enjoy them.”
“We’re thrilled and honored to share these pieces from Johnny Bench’s personal collection with our guests,” said Anne Jewell, VP and Executive Director of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. “We’ve enjoyed so many great years with Johnny. Every time he walks through our doors, he delights our guests with his warmth and good humor. Now, even when he’s not here in person, Johnny can connect with his fans through these marvelous items.”
Many consider Bench to be the greatest catcher in baseball history. He signed with Louisville Slugger in 1965. Bench played his entire career with the Reds from 1967-1983. He was the National League Rookie of the Year and went on to become one of the leaders of the Big Red Machine that dominated the NL in the 1970s. During that era, Bench was a two-time World Series champion (1975, 1976). He won two NL MVP Awards and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. In 2011 he was honored with the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Living Legend Award.
These three special pieces will be on display until at least March 2023. Advanced tickets are required and can be purchased here.
Bench's most recent visit to the museum was in November of 2020 prior to the auction of his items. He appeared in a Q&A livestream with the museum during his visit. Check out the replay below!