Welcome to Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory's Virtual Museum! We'll be sharing featured artifacts and photos from the archives, fun articles, videos, and much more.
We'll be adding new content to the Virtual Museum every month. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for Virtual Museum updates.
1954 All-Star Game
In this great photo from the 1954 All-Star Game in Cleveland, there are over 1,400 career home runs between Willie Mays of the Giants, Ted Kluszewski of the Reds, and Stan Musial of the Cardinals. All three had big performances in the game, but the National League ultimately lost to the American League 11-9.
Musial got his second hit of the game in the 4th inning and scored following a hit by Kluszewski. Kluszewski then scored on a Jackie Robinson double in the five-run frame, and came back with a two-run homer in the 5th. Robinson is pictured below taking batting practice.
Mays, who replaced Robinson after the 4th inning, singled and scored on an 8th inning home run by Gus Bell to give the NL a 9-8 lead. The lead was short-lived though, as Larry Doby homered in the 9th to tie the game followed by a two-run Nellie Fox single to win it. Below is a picture of a Doby bat we have in our collection from the World Series later that same year.
Sometimes, All-Stars fade during the second half of the season, but not these three Sluggers in the photos. All of them had amazing seasons.
The 23-year-old Mays won the NL Silver Bat for leading the league in hitting (.345) and was named NL MVP. He led the Giants to the World Series championship, and turned in his famous over-the-shoulder catch in Game 1. Kluszewski led the NL in home runs (49) and RBIs (141) and was MVP runner-up. Musial led the league in runs scored for the 5th time and doubles for the 8th time, finishing 6th in the MVP balloting.
Artifact Spotlight - Ty Cobb Bat
With an MLB record career batting average of .366, Ty Cobb knew a thing or two about hitting. Owning any artifact from one of the best hitters to ever play the game is special, but even more-so is owning a piece of where it all began.
This Ty Cobb bat in our collection is possibly the earliest known Cobb bat we made. All markings are present and correct for the era. The bat lacks any signature stamped into the barrel which indicates that it was made for Cobb before he signed his H&B contract. This would date the bat all the way back to his rookie season in 1905. Cobb would go on to collect 4,189 hits during his career (or 4,191 depending on the source), a record that stood until 1985.
Artifact Spotlight - Ernie Banks Bat/Contract
This bat was game-used by Banks in 1960, the season after becoming a back-to-back NL MVP and RBI leader.
Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks made his MLB debut on September 17, 1953 - 67 years ago. The Texas native started his professional career with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues and served in the military before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He signed his Louisville Slugger bat contract the following year, in 1954.
Artifact Spotlight - Larry Doby Bat
Jackie Robinson was the first Black player to break MLB's color barrier in April 1947 when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. But who integrated the American League? If you answered "Larry Doby," you are correct. Here he is (on the left) with fellow Hall of Famer Satchel Paige.
Before his MLB career, he played professionally for the Newark Eagles from 1942-47 for co-owner Effa Manley, the only woman currently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. During this time, he won the Negro World Series against the Kansas City Monarchs in 1946. He also served in WWII with the US Navy and was stationed in the Pacific Theater. Keeping up with baseball, he played on teams with his fellow soldiers, and he even met his future teammate Mickey Vernon while stationed in Hawaii!
Doby made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Indians in July 5, 1947 and went on to be a 7x All-Star, 2x homerun leader for the American League, and another World Champion in 1948.
This bat from our collection was used by Doby in the 1954 World Series, the same season he was AL's RBI leader.
Ken Griffey Jr. 600th Home Run Commemorative Bat
During Ken Griffey Jr's career, he collected many awards and achievements. This special bat from our collection highlights an important moment in The Kid's career!
On June 9, 2008, while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run in the MLB. This bat commemorates his accomplishment in addition to highlighting other impressive milestones.
Only 5,000 of these bats were produced. This limited edition bat was also autographed by the Kid himself. The bat in our collection is number 17 out of 5,000.
Artifact Spotlight - Louisville Colonels Cap
Before Louisville cheered for the Bats baseball team, our home team was the Louisville Colonels! This organization represented all levels of minor league baseball in its nearly 70 years (A-AAA), had 5 different major league affiliates, and 3 different ballparks around town. Former players include beloved Louisville local turned Dodgers captain Pee Wee Reese and White Sox great Carlton Fisk. They won a total of 15 titles through the decades.
This cap from our collection is from the 1950s, a busy time for the Colonels organization! They were affiliated with the Red Sox, the Senators, the Orioles, and the Milwaukee Braves. During this decade they also relocated to their final playing field at Fairgrounds Stadium.
We have yet to discover who this cap belonged to and what experiences they had in it but having a piece of local baseball history is special nonetheless.
Artifact Spotlight - Michael Jordan White Sox Bat
When most athletes retire, they stop playing and get involved in their sport in a different way. If you're Michael Jordan, though, you start playing a different sport professionally.
The greatest basketball player of all time traded in the net for the bat at the end of the 1993 season and signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox organization. Playing for the Birmingham Barons for one season only (1994), he unsurprisingly showed great promise but didn't play baseball long enough to make it to the majors.
Check out this special bat from our collection! This is the same model and finish that Jordan ordered during his baseball-playing days.
Artifact Spotlight - Willie Horton Game Used Bat
"Willie the Wonder" Horton grew up in Detroit and went on to become not only the Tigers' first Black superstar, but one of their most beloved players of all time. The Hometown Hero made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 1963, a month shy of his 21st birthday. Within 2 years, he would make his first of four All-Star teams. He was also a member of the 1968 World Champion Tigers team.
Off the field, a 1967 protest for racial equality that took place outside of the Tigers' stadium inspired a lifelong devotion to community service and social activism for Horton.
He is also celebrated for saving the life of his teammate, Al Kaline, after an on-field collision left him knocked out on the ground. Horton's quick response and knowledge from boxing as a child saved Kaline's life.
This bat from our collection was game-used by Horton, probably during 1969-71. This is also the same time period that he made his 3rd out of four All-Star appearances.
Artifact Spotlight - Ken Griffey Jr. Silver Slugger Award
By Bailey Mazik
"The Kid," Ken Griffey Jr. that is, was awarded the Silver Slugger Award 7 times during his 22-year career! This award is given annually to the best offensive player in each position (in both the NL and the AL), decided by coaches and managers in the MLB.
The trophy you see here is Griffey's 4th award given to him in 1996, the year before he would be named the AL's MVP! You can see this up close in person in our Hold a Piece of History at the museum!
You can also stand with our Griffey statue in the main gallery where you'll see him posed in his signature swing!
Artifact Spotlight - Hank Greenburg Signature Plate
By Bailey Mazik
Have you ever wondered how players' signatures get into their Louisville Slugger bats? Branding plates, like this one here, were an important part! Before computers, when a player signed his contract for Louisville Slugger bats, we cut out his signature from the paper contract and transferred it onto the plate. These plates were used to brand every single one of that players' bats. What you see here is Hank Greenberg's signature.
Greenberg signed with H&B in 1934 and you can see where he signed at the bottom before we cut it out. That's where we took the signature to make this plate!
This Detroit Tigers great is considered to be the first Jewish athlete to make it big time. During WWII he served in the military longer than any other MLB player - a total of 47 months. His military service was bookended by his on field accomplishments including being a 5x All-Star and a 2x World Series champ.
Artifact Spotlight - Decal Bats
By Natalie Guyon
Without a doubt, there are some beautiful bats being made today, but old decal bats like this one from our museum collection are truly works of art.
This decal bat shows an illustration of player Jake Daubert in the early 1910s. Daubert was the National League’s batting champion in both 1913 and 1914. He signed his bat contract with Hillerich & Bradsby Co. in 1915.
There was a whole line of these decal bats made around 1915 featuring players including Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, and Eddie Collins.
These vibrant illustrations have been given new life by including them in our factory tour! Take a look under your foot next time you swing by to see us!
Bats Then and Now
By Bailey Mazik
Some thrills of baseball are timeless: the anticipation of your pitcher striking out the opposing team; the excitement of your team loading the bases; the reward of a home run.
Some things have about baseball playing have changed quite a bit, including hitting style. Check out these 3 bats from our collection to see how the shape of bats has evolved through the decades to fit the needs of hitters. You can see how the handles get more slender and the barrels are better defined.
Pete Browning game used bat from 1887: 37" in length and 42 oz.
Roberto Clemente game used bat from ca. 1969: 36" in length and 32 oz.
Jim Thome game used bat from 2007: 34" in length and 30.5 oz.
Inside the Vault: Fungo Pair
By PJ Shelley
Fungo bats are used by coaches to hit ground balls and pop flies to practicing fielders. They are longer than traditional bats and skinnier in diameter. This makes it easy for a coach to toss a ball into the air and hit a perfect fly ball over and over.
Today, Louisville Slugger fungo models like the K100 and S345 are used by everyone from MLB managers to parents like me in the backyard. While the Bat Vault contains a trove of bat oddities, two of my favorites are a pair of fungo bats. Both were created by White Sox coaches in the 1960s under Hall of Fame manager, Al Lopez.
One of the most uniquely shaped bats in the vault is the C226. Looking like something you’d find at a cricket match, the C226 was created by Tony “Chick” Cuccinelo in 1962. Cuccinelo had a solid 15-year career as an infielder in the bigs from 1930 to 1945. He made the first All-Star game in 1933 as a member of the Dodgers. He was also on the Boston Bees (now the Atlanta Braves) from 1936 to 1940 where he befriended his teammate, Al Lopez. After their playing days, Lopez hired Chick as a coach - first with the Indians from 1952 to 1956, then with the White Sox from 1957 to 1966.
It was in Chicago that he created this unique fungo. I am assuming Cuccinelo didn’t like the traditionally shaped fungo bats. Instead, he might have favored a traditional shaped bat but wanted it to be much lighter than a standard bat. So why not slice off the half of the barrel? His exact reasons for this fungo bat’s unique design have been lost to history.
Whenever I’m giving a Bat Vault tour to guests and I ask if anyone has a question, it seems more people ask about the M210 than any other model. Probably because it is so much longer than the other models, coming in at 40 inches. The bat was Charlie Metro’s fungo bat from his coaching days. Charlie Moreskonich was born in 1918 after his parents had immigrated from Ukraine.
As a ballplayer, he changed his name to Charlie Metro. He was used mostly as a backup with the Tigers and Connie Mack’s Athletics in the 1940s. But Metro’s post-playing career lasted over 40 years as a coach, manager, and scout. He also served on the Cubs’ doomed “College of Coaches” in 1962.
By 1965, he was a coach with the White Sox under manager Al Lopez (and alongside Cuccinello). It was in Chicago that year when Metro took his swing at a uniquely shaped fungo. Unlike a traditional fungo that’s shaped like an elongated bat with a smaller barrel, the M210 has a tiny diameter handle that stretches to the barrel – which is also tiny.
Its unusual ramrod shape and extended length mean that the model doesn’t fit flush like the other 3,000 plus models in our vault. Rather, it sticks out to beckon the curiosity of the Vault’s visitors. One can only surmise that Al Lopez expected his coaches to hit A LOT of fungos on the South Side of Chicago.
Artifact Spotlight - Science Bat
By Natalie Guyon
Every bat we make tells a story, and this story is backed by science!
This formula filled bat was created for the Ontario Science Centre in 1988. The stickers adorning the bat describe the physics and dynamics of a baseball bat.
The handle of the bat breaks down just how quickly a professional player's reaction time has to be to make contact.
Towards the barrel of the bat, you can see the bat's "Sweet Spot" which is the best place to contact the ball.
For batters who have experienced stinging or bat rotation when hitting the ball...You may have hit the ball a bit too high on the barrel!
Hitting is a science, and this bat hammers that home. There is a lot of information and technique to consider when stepping into the batter's box.
Artifact Spotlight - Mystery Pins
By Bailey Mazik
It's true! Most of our museum collection is bats: game-used bats, commemorative bats, bat models, mini bats…you get the idea. We are a baseball bat factory, after all.
However, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has made a lot of other sports goods equipment through the years (golf sticks, hockey sticks, gloves, croquet mallets, even pool tables!).
These charming pins have us puzzled, though. We originally thought they were juggling pins, but an expert has told us otherwise. Do you recognize them? If you do, we’d love to hear from you!
Featured Blog: Flood v. Kuhn
By Tony Shupenko and Natalie Guyon
The impact regarding the Supreme Court's decision in Flood v. Kuhn in 1972 is a fascinating piece of baseball history. Check out our blog for a look back at this ruling to read how it paved the way for free agency and expanded player's rights in professional baseball.
Making & Moving The Big Bat
By Bailey Mazik
As a company with a rich history, we’re proud of a lot of things, but providing our guests with unique, unforgettable experiences is high on our list.
The Big Bat that greets everyone as they enter our building sets the tone! It’s a rarity when no one is near it. People are either craning their neck to see the top or figuring out how to get the whole bat in their picture. This leads to me to apologize for all the family photos and field trip pictures I’ve unintentionally photobombed by walking in and out of work every day!
Standing at a whopping 120-feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds, you may wonder how The Big Bat was made. It was made in 1995 by Caldwell Tanks, a Louisville-based company that’s nearly as old as ours, and as their name tells you, they make custom tanks (think: water tanks).
Like our wooden bats, every detail of this giant steel one was attended to. The Big Bat was hand-painted to look like one of our famous natural wood finish, the shape of it is the same as Babe Ruth’s model R43, and the iconic signature on the barrel is that of our first bat maker: Bud Hillerich.
Another remarkable fact is that the Big Bat was moved, in one piece, from the Caldwell factory to ours, through the streets of Louisville. It was carefully transported on the back of two trucks and was cheered on by flocks of people throughout its journey.
One newspaper article noted that it barely missed streetlights on one especially tight turn, but all streetlights were untouched.
Remarkable Records & Fantastic Feats
By Deana Lockman
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is home to the world's biggest bat and to many other record-holding bats. Read more about the Remarkable Records and Fantastic Feats that we celebrate at Louisville Museum & Factory.
Artifact Spotlight - Hank Aaron Throne
By Chris Meiman
Hillerich & Bradsby has a long history of honoring our players. From the Silver Bat awards to the Silver Slugger Awards, H&B loves to celebrate our great sluggers. In late 2017, our friends at Topps asked us to figure out a way to help them honor Hank Aaron. Our factory went to work and designed a throne fit for the Home Run King. Designed with 11 full-sized Hank Aaron bats and 11 mini bats, the throne made its debut in January 2018 at Topps’s event in Atlanta to honor Hank and Billye Aaron.
Once the event was over, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory wanted to use the throne for display while maintaining its special status. In 2019, we started our All-Star experiences, providing a behind-the-scenes tour and a look at some of our more unique artifacts are not in public view. The Hank Aaron throne is part of that tour!
Historical Interpretation - Louisville Slugger Enlists
By Natalie Guyon
Join our Programming Manager, Natalie Guyon, as she takes you back in time to 1945.
Artifact Spotlight - Rose from Babe Ruth's Funeral
By Bailey Mazik
One of the most unique, and fragile, items we have in our museum collection is a pressed rose from Babe Ruth’s funeral. A reported 6,000 people attended his funeral and another 75,000 people waited outside. This rose was sent by an attendant to one of our executives afterward.
Babe Ruth had a personal relationship with the Hillerich family. He attended the Kentucky Derby more than once as their guest and his wife stayed in touch after he passed away.
This portrait of Ruth represents his connection as it was signed with affection to Louisville Slugger’s creator and his wife: “To my Pals, Bud and Rose.”
Blog Spotlight - Superstitious Sluggers
By Chris Meiman
Superstitions, we all have a few! Read up on the wacky superstitions and pre-game rituals that helped some legendary sluggers over the years.
Inside the Vault - Roberto Clemente's C276
By PJ Shelley
Early in his career, Roberto Clemente was ordering Louisville Slugger models typical of the era: M110, S2, K55. By the early 1960s, he settled on two models that he used almost exclusively the remainder of his career: the U1 and G105.
The U1 was created in 1942 by Frenchy Uhalt. It is a big-barreled bat but its unique feature is that it has no knob to it, just a flare at the end of the bat.
The G105 was created by Tom Glaviano in 1954 and is just a modified U1 model with a slightly thinner handle. While neither Uhalt or Glaviano would become household names like Clemente, Roberto uses their models to win the MVP and for most his 3,000 hits.
The one thing Clemente never did was design his own Louisville Slugger model. That changed in 1972. Clemente reached out to our pro bat rep, Rex Bradley, during the NLCS between the Pirates and the Reds.
Bradley traveled from Louisville to Cincinnati to meet with Clemente in person. There, they worked together to make some tweaks to the knobless U1 model. Bradley returned to Louisville where he would make the modifications Clemente had requested and thus the C276 model was created.
Unfortunately for the Pirates and Clemente, the Reds knocked them out of the playoffs in five games. So by the time Clemente received his new model C276, the season was over.
Sadly, Clemente never swung his C276 in an MLB game. The 38-year-old was tragically killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve while flying supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Today, the C276 is one of over 3,000 models in our Bat Vault.
Artifact Spotlight - Hank Aaron Cap
By Bailey Mazik
We believe Hank Aaron wore this cap in this span of several impressive years in which he achieved a number of milestones.
In 1967, Hank Aaron was named home run leader for the 4th and last time of his career.
Aaron achieved the feat of being the first player in Braves history to hit his 500th career home run in 1968 (he's still the only Braves player to achieve this).
The following year Aaron broke Mickey Mantle's record home record and was 3rd in line to win NL MVP (that would have been his second MVP award).
And in 1970, Aaron joined the exclusive club of 3,000 career hits!
If he wasn't wearing this cap while breaking one of these records, he was certainly wearing it while he was on his way. And for this, we tip our caps to, Hammerin' Hank!
PJ's Top Five Stay at Home Baseball Reads
By PJ Shelley
I love to read, I love baseball, and while there are so many great baseball books I do have a few favorites. Note that all these titles are available for download or for purchase used online so you can read them without a trip to your library.
Honorable Mention: The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams.
Teddy ballgame approached hitting (and his Louisville Sluggers) with scientific precision. I remember checking this book out of my middle school library and the pages were all worn and falling out. Once I read it, I knew why. This one is a must for anyone who wants to be a better hitter or coach.
5. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence Ritter.
Imagine hearing first-hand accounts from Stan Coveleski, Specs Toporcer, Fred Snodgrass, and many more greats from the early 20th Century. But you’ve never heard of those names? Then read this book!
4. Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams, by Robert Peterson.
While there have been many great books about the Negro leagues, this one is still my favorite. Written before Ken Burns introduced many Americans to these great players and their stories, this book is a great introduction to Negro league history.
3. The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship, by David Halberstam.
Even as a die-hard Yankee fan, I loved this book about the friendship among Red Sox teammates Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr. It’s a quick read. So when you’re done, I’d recommend you read Halberstam’s, Summer of ’49, about the great Yankee/Red Sox pennant race in 1949. And let me know how that turned out for the Red Sox.
2. The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn.
A true baseball classic about the Brooklyn Dodgers and baseball’s Golden Era. It follows Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Louisville’s Pee Wee Reese, and the rest of the classic Dodgers during and after their great run in the ‘50s. A must-read for all baseball fans!
1. Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates, Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, by Cait Murphy.
Murphy’s well-researched story of the 1908 season is so much more than a baseball book. It easily transports you to 1908 America as it weaves one unforgettable story after another about that amazing season. Once you get to the NL pennant race between the Pirates, Giants, and Cubs, you cannot put this one down!
Baseball Oddities - The Reggie! Bar
By PJ Shelley
Before signing a lucrative free-agent deal with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson famously bragged, “If I played in New York, they’d name a candy bar after me.” Curtiss Candy Company made it a reality, once he came to play for the Yankees. The Reggie! Bar was a chocolate bar covered in caramel and peanuts that, according to Catfish Hunter, “when you unwrap a "Reggie! Bar", it tells you how good it is.”
In 1978, for the Yankees home opener in the Bronx against the White Sox, the Yankees gave out Reggie! Bars to the fans. The candy’s namesake came up big in the first inning.
With one out and two on, Jackson crushed Wilbur Wood’s offering over the fence for a three-run bomb. As he rounded the bases, the nearly 45,000 fans in attendance showered Reggie and the White Sox players with their chocolate projectiles. The play had to be stopped for several minutes as the grounds’ crew was summoned to clean up the mess.
White Sox manager, Bob Lemon, was not impressed. “Let them throw them when he’s in right field and see how it feels.” Ironically, later in the season Lemon would manage Jackson and the Yankees to World Series victory after he was fired by the Sox and replaced by Billy Martin, who had resigned.
When the bombardment was taking place, Jackson feared the fans were rejecting the bars because they didn’t like the taste, not out of jubilation for the three-run blast. Whichever it was, media all over covered the Reggie! Bar barrage and the candy’s sales soared after the event.
Artifact Spotlight - 1996 Olympic Torch Handle
By Chris Meiman
"When I watch them pass that torch, I know that's a part of me." - an H&B employee quoted in the "Louisville Courier-Journal."
In late 1995, the Atlanta Olympics Committee called Hillerich & Bradsby’s General Manager Marty Archer and asked if the makers of the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat would like to make the Olympic relay torch handles. Said Mr. Archer, “The chance to make an Olympic torch doesn’t come along every day.”
Starting in December, H&B craftsmen turned the wood from 60 Georgia Pecan trees into over 10,000 6-inch handles for the torches. The work was tough because pecan wood is much harder than the Northern White Ash used for most baseball bats, at the time.
One worker commented, “it will dull your bit in a heartbeat.” 35% of the finished handles were rejected for flaws and wood defects, compared to less than 5% of finished bats. When they were completed in February, the handles were shipped to Erie, PA for final assembly.
During the 15,000-mile torch relay from Los Angeles to Atlanta, over 12,000 runners took the flame to all parts of the country, and even into space on the Space Shuttle Columbia. When the torch came to Louisville on June 5, Rick Pitino, coach of the University of Kentucky National Champions basketball team, carried the torch from the 2nd Street Bridge to the not-yet opened Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
In one of the most dramatic moments in Olympic history, Louisville native and Gold Medal boxer Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremonies in Atlanta.
In November 1996, Ali visited the newly opened Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and signed a torch given to H&B. The torch is now on display in our archive room, which is viewable with any of our All-Star tours.
Baseball Podcasts We Love - The Past and The Curious
By Bailey Mazik
Baseball connects people from so many backgrounds, and in this episode of The Past and The Curious podcast, we hear two fascinating stories of players. One was a real American spy, and the other was the woman who struck out Babe Ruth!
Moe Berg is still considered to be one of the smartest men to have played baseball. He had degrees from Princeton and Columbia but played baseball professionally. In 1934, a baseball exhibition tour to Japan (which included Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth on the roster) proved to be a good opportunity for Moe to gather information for the US government.
Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931. Yes, you read that correctly! As a young girl, Mitchell was coached in the art of pitching by Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance and her presence on the team of the Chattanooga Lookouts created a lot of buzz leading up to exhibition games against the Yankees. Kelly Moore who reads Mitchell's narrative for this podcast also performs a live interpretation of Mitchell for our guests at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory!
The Past and The Curious is made in Louisville by Mick Sullivan.
Hold a Piece of History - Joey Votto
Hosted by Andrew Soliday
Join Andrew as he dives into a 2012 game-used Joey Votto bat!
Artifact Spotlight - Bobbleheads
By Bailey Mazik
The first baseball bobbleheads were made in 1960 and the lineup included only 4 players: Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays. These were sold to fans at the 1960 World Series.
This inaugural class of bobbleheads (or "nodders") weren't as detail-oriented as some you see today. Made of paper-mache and ceramic, the original 4 players all had similar shapes but were painted differently to resemble their faces and uniforms.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is lucky enough to have one of these early bobbleheads of Willie Mays!
The popularity of bobbleheads has fluctuated through the decades, but they have seen a notable comeback in the past 20 years, depicting figures in countless areas of pop culture.
But at the museum, we're still partial to the baseball-related nodders.
Check out this Mike Trout bobblehead with his collection of Silver Slugger awards!
Ingrained in History - Al Oliver
By Chris Meiman
It was history in the making at Olympic Stadium in 1982 when H&B's Rex Bradley (far left) and Pee Wee Reese (far right) presented the 1981 Silver Slugger Awards to three members of the Montreal Expos.
Future Hall of Famers Andre Dawson (next to Bradley) and Gary Carter (next to Reese) were integral players on the 1981 Expos team. This was the first team to make the playoffs in franchise history with Dawson finishing runner-up in the NL MVP voting, while Carter finished sixth in the balloting.
But it was Al Oliver in the middle of the photo who was making history.
Oliver was being presented with his 1981 American League Silver Slugger Award for his work with the Texas Rangers as a Designated Hitter, something that wouldn't have been possible with his new team.
Oliver would win the 1982 batting title (earning him an H&B Silver Bat Award) and the 1982 National League Silver Slugger at first base. This made him the first player to win a Silver Slugger in two leagues and the first to win at three different positions after also winning in 1980 as a Texas Rangers outfielder.
Carter won his second Silver Slugger in 1982 and would win five overall, while Dawson just missed out before coming back with another Silver Slugger/MVP-runner-up season in 1983 and a Silver Slugger/MVP-winning season in 1987.
When Andre Dawson was honored with the 2015 Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory's Living Legend Award, it was Oliver whom Dawson selected to introduce him at the ceremony.
Artifact Spotlight - Ball Balanced Bat
By Natalie Guyon
Check out this baseball oddity! A "Ball Balanced" bat from the 1890s.
This bat was designed with a large knob at the base to act as a counterbalance to the barrel. Designed by Bud Hillerich around 1895, this style of bat design didn't make an impact at the batter's box. However, this rarity showcases the diversity of Hillerich & Bradsby's bat catalog.
The sight of our Bat Vault, which holds more than 3,000 models, can make you do a double-take. I am personally fond of the double-knobbed bat trend that popped up in the 1970s. Each era of the game shows the evolution in bat design, and it's never boring to look back at some oddities!
Next time you swing by the museum, be sure to check out The Bat Vault.
The Home Run Race of 1929
By PJ Shelley
Going into the last day of the 1929 season, the Philadelphia Phillies were hosting the New York Giants for a doubleheader.
Both teams had been eliminated at that point with the Cubs already securing the pennant and the crosstown Philadelphia Athletics nabbing the AL pennant. However, there was drama between Giants star, Mel Ott, and the Phillies new phenom, Chuck Klein.
The two sluggers were tied for the NL home run crown, each with 42 dingers. In game one, Klein hit a moonshot over the wall at the Baker Bowl to put him one ahead of Ott, who was held to a single. In game two, the Phillies pitching staff made sure Klein’s slim lead was secure.
They walked Ott five times in the second game; including one with the bases loaded! At least the Giants routed the duplicitous Phils, 12 – 3. With Ott scoring three of the runs courtesy of his five walks.
In the end, the crown went to Chuck Klein. However, the events leading up to Klein's narrow victory is an interesting piece of baseball history!
Baseball Card Spotlight - Justin Upton
By Tony Shupenko
When you were a kid, opening a pack of baseball cards was always a thrill. You were hoping to find that top star or rookie and in later years autograph and game-used memorabilia cards.
In many cards, there are other details that make the card other than the player. Many are set in classic parks, you can see fans in the stands, or the card represents a specific event.
In 2015, Topps Update Series was released. Card number #US92 was a short print, meaning fewer were produced. In the card, Justin Upton is sitting at his locker in the Padres clubhouse. Like a kid on Christmas morning, he is unboxing an order of brand-new Louisville Slugger bats.
Judging by his placement of the bats, Upton appears to be inspecting each one. This is a common practice among all ballplayers around the league: a player inspecting every bat.
This is the tool of his trade. Players are very specific about their bats. They want to feel like the bat is a part of them as they are facing a 100 MPH pitch from Noah Syndergaard or a knee-buckling curveball from Clayton Kershaw. This Topps card really brings the fan and collector a behind-the-scenes moment of a player and his Louisville Slugger Bats.
Inside the Vault - George Brett's B390
By PJ Shelley
While George Brett was swinging Marv Throneberry’s T85 model throughout much of the 1980s, he also created his model in 1985.
Tweaking the T85, Brett requested a Slugger with the handle and barrel of the T85 but with the knob of an S216 model. The S216 was a model created by Pirate’s All-Star Bob Skinner in 1960. This new combination required us to assign it a new model number: the B348.
Brett was the 348th player with the last name of “B” to have created a model with us. But while Brett was happy with the shape of his new model bat, he wasn’t completely satisfied with the new model number. He requested it to be changed to B390.
The number 390 had a special meaning to him. His batting average in 1980 was .390 when he won the Silver Bat and MVP awards. So we obliged the future Hall of Famer and re-designated his new model as the B390. As a side note, the B348 number was reopened up and designated shortly after to another future Hall of Famer: Harold Baines.
Thoughts on Keeping a Scorecard
By Tony Shupenko
K, BB, HBP, WP, HR: These are just some common abbreviations on a baseball scorecard.
Keeping score has always been a part of baseball, but over the years with the advancement in technology, it has become a thing of the past. You can still go to a game and come across a die-hard fan keeping score.
I always keep a scorecard. It was a way for me to pay better attention to the game, the players, and it was a nice memento to look at years later. You never know, I might one day want to see what Scott Hairston did for the Mets in a game I attended back in 2012.
Some take keeping score very seriously. If you turned on a New York Mets game, you will often hear Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, & Keith Hernandez talking about their scorecards and what color ink they use to represent different plays. When Phil Rizzuto kept score, he sometimes didn’t pay attention to the game so he would score a play on his scorecard WW (Wasn’t Watching).
There are so many great things about keeping score at a game. It is something that does not cost much money; it is a way to pay attention to the game better; it is a great keepsake to look at years later and have all those memories at the ballpark come back to you. A scorecard is also great to pass down to your children and grandchildren.
I think it is amazing that my Grandfather saw Babe Ruth play and my Father saw Hank Aaron play. I'd like to think that my kids would find it amazing that I saw Derek Jeter and Mike Piazza play. A scorecard provides memories. One can now picture that home run Mike Trout hit or a 15-strikeout game Bob Gibson had 50 years ago.
Ingrained in History - Joe Jackson
By Chris Meiman
One of the most fabled bats in history is Shoeless Joe Jackson's famous "Black Betsy." The bat was made for him as a teenager in South Carolina and served him well into his professional career.
On April 4, 1911, Louisville Slugger received a 40-oz. bat from Jackson. This bat would be used as the model for future bat orders. The result was known as the "Old Joe Jackson Model," but after a new naming system was introduced after World War II it became known as the J13 bat model.
Jackson signed a promotional contract with Louisville Slugger on July 6, 1912. By 1913, Jackson's model was considered a top-of-the-line product. An advertisement in the "Sporting Goods Dealer" that featured Jackson and Tris Speaker noted: "Two autograph model bats, exact duplicates of the special sluggers we make for Tris Speaker and Joe Jackson, are now ready for prompt delivery to the trade."
Jackson was featured in catalogs from 1913 to 20, but on December 2, 1920, H&B dropped Jackson "on account of the World's Series baseball scandal" and added Edd Roush to its player lineup. Roush was on the Reds team that defeated Jackson's White Sox in 1919.
Fortunately for baseball, Joe Jackson did not stop playing after he was banned. He embarked on a career as a semi-pro player and barnstormer through the south. H&B did not stop supplying him with bats either, though they did not always put his autograph on the ends of bats and they were rarely noted in the player records. Still, H&B continued to make J13 model bats for other players, including Hall of Famers Kiki Cuyler, Al Simmons, and Paul Waner.
H&B also marketed "Black Betsy" bats for decades, though not to the specs of the original. H&B's 40B adult baseball (1936-55) and 205B softball (1943-58) retail models were also given the name "Black Betsy," as they often had a black finish. In 1956, H&B moved the name to a Little League bat line with names of contemporary sluggers like Ted Kluszewski, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams on the barrel. That line ended in 1963.
The Joe Jackson bat on display at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory was given to H&B by Jackson at an unknown date. The bat was used as part of a traveling display called the "Famous Slugger Bat Collection." This collection would be shipped around the country to promote stores carrying H&B products. The display featured some iconic bats now on display in the museum, like Ty Cobb's rookie year bat and Babe Ruth's famous 1927 notched bat.
Jackson may finally get his due in Cooperstown as the baseball committee that tests early ballplayers for candidacy into the Hall of Fame is to meet later this year. Previously Jackson was ineligible for The Hall because of his inclusion on MLB's ineligible list, but it seems like the MLB has shifted its stance regarding players on the ineligible list who are deceased. MLB's official historian John Thorn wrote in 2016 that a person's time on the ineligible list ends with their death.
Whether Jackson ever gets the recognition of a plaque in Cooperstown, his legacy as one of baseball's greatest hitters has endured and this bat is a highlight of any trip to Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
Baseball Songs We Love - "Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song) by TheTreniers
By Bailey Mazik
This mood-boosting tune by The Treniers is perfectly balanced with a mellow foundation and a positive, relaxing chant. Released in 1955, the song touches on some of Mays’s recent playing accomplishments and his military service that interrupted his career.
The Say Hey Kid started playing professionally in the Negro Leagues before being signed by the New York Giants in 1951. Mays was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951 before being called to military service. He subsequently missed most of the 1952 season and all of the 1953 season.
Mays came back to the field with a bang! In 1954 he earned the title of NL MVP and Batting Champ in addition to World Series Champ. So, this song’s line “that Giants kid is great” is true, but also an understatement.
My favorite part of this song is hearing Willie Mays himself! He’s part of the dialogue in the beginning. What’s your favorite part of the song?
Ingrained in History- Vince Coleman
By Chris Meiman
“Vincent Van-Go!” was the cry of Cardinals fans whenever Vince Coleman got on base. The 1985 National League Rookie of the Year stole 110 bases, which is a Major League rookie record.
The bat in the photo is from Coleman’s minor league days with the Louisville Redbirds in 1984 when he stole 101 - a year after setting a minor league record with 145 steals with Macon. Coleman's record stood until Billy Hamilton swiped 155 in 2012.
Coleman is still the last man to steal 100 bags in a season, swiping 109 in 1987 as the Cardinals made it back to the World Series. He led the National League in steals again in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
He went on to accumulate the 6th most steals in history (752) in just 1371 games, or .549 steals per game. This accomplishment ranks well next to contemporaries like Rickey Henderson (.456), Lou Brock (.359), and Tim Raines (.323).
Fielder's Choice: Field of Dreams
By Natalie Guyon
Field of Dreams is one of my favorite baseball movies and a must-see for baseball fans of all ages. The film follows the journey of Ray Kinsella as he builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn farm. Ray was inspired to build this field after he heard a voice exclaim to him, “If you build it, he will come.”
Ray’s passion to solve the voice's messages help him find people who are destined to come to the baseball diamond on his farm. One such person is Boston author Terence Mann, who had childhood dreams of playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. While watching a game at Fenway Park with Mann, the voice tells Ray “to go the distance,” and reveals the name of a former big leaguer, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.
I’m not one to spoil a good plot twist, but Archibald Graham makes it to the field of dreams. The how and the why is something you must watch for yourself. During Archibald’s first game on Ray’s farm, he finally gets to take his turn at-bat.
This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The back and forth between Archibald and Shoeless Joe is hilarious. I love the feeling of awe that the movie creates while watching players from the past. As the first game progresses, you can't help but notice that the player’s choice on the field is our iconic ash bat.
Hillerich & Bradsby provided wooden bats, gloves, and equipment for the film's production. Unfortunately, the exact make and model of those bats were not documented. If I were to take a wild guess, I would say at least a few of the bats used in the film were the M110 bat model. The M110 is one of our most recognizable bat models and has been used by players for generations.
While we are all adjusting to the “new normal” I find baseball to be a comfort, regardless of the form it takes. May it be a fictional classic film, or a recorded game from seasons past. Field of Dreams leaves you with a hope that your troubles can be eased with a good game of ball.
Baseball Songs We Love - "Joe Dimaggio's Done It Again" by Billy Bragg & Wilco
By Andrew Soliday
Imagine a legendary songwriter who sung tunes for downtrodden underdogs writing lyrics about a baseball player who, seemingly, only knew success...That contradicting combination would land you "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again."
Originally written by Woody Guthrie, but never recorded, this bluegrass-thumper was recorded by British artist Billy Bragg and Chicago-based band Wilco during the legendary Mermaid Avenue sessions in the early 2000s. These sessions resulted in two albums of unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs put to music created by Bragg & Wilco.
Without a doubt, DiMaggio was one of the most beloved baseball players of all time! And, not to mention, the guy had plenty of successes - 13x All-Star, 9x World Series champion and so much more. NBD, right?
The strangeness of the song comes through Guthrie's lyrics as he paints a picture of a potentially washed-up player: "Some folks thought Big Joe was done/Some just figured Joe was gone/Steps to the platter with a great big grin/Joe DiMaggio's done it again."
Later in the song, we hear the lines, "I'm gonna tell you just the way I feel/Man can't run without his heel/Watch that raggy pill split the wind." Both examples have me questioning the intent of Guthrie, however, each verse ends with the (possibly) reassuring refrain "Joe DiMaggio's done it again."
The rhythm of the song slinks along with its plucked banjos and flat-picked guitars, as though mimicking DiMaggio humming around the bases. This song has enough humor and mystery to hit all the bases. I guess we'll never know Mr. Guthrie's true feelings for Mr. DiMaggio, but I can tell you I feel great about both legends.
Artifact Spotlight - All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Baseball
By Natalie Guyon
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League captures the hearts of baseball fans everywhere. Founded by Philip K. Wrigley in 1943, the league's teams played primarily in the Midwest.
The location of the league was crucial to its success, as gasoline restrictions were the norm due to WWII rationing. The MLB was suffering from travel restrictions and a lack of players in the Major & Minor Leagues. The AAGPBL offered spectators the excitement of a competitive ball game that was closer to home.
At the height of the league's popularity over 900,000 spectators attended games throughout the season. Penny Marshall's iconic film "A League of Their Own" provides a fictional account of the league's formation and Inaugural season.
While most of the film is fictitious, team names were drawn from history. The Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets, and South Bend Blue Sox were all featured in the film.
Hillerich & Bradsby produced orders of wood bats for the AAGPBL. However, most of our factory production at the time was dedicated to producing gunstocks and tank pins for the WWII war effort. Within our museum collection, we have an official AAGPBL baseball which was used by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League between 1943 - 1950. The AAGPBL's legacy remains ingrained in history!
PJ's Top 5: Baseball Biographies
By PJ Shelley
If you’re like me, you’re at home, catching up on some reading and missing baseball. So here are some of my favorite baseball biographies/autobiographies for you to crack open.
5. The Game from Where I Stand: From Batting Practice to the Clubhouse to the Best Breakfast on the Road, an Inside View of a Ballplayer’s Life, by Doug Glanville
I admit I’m biassed on this one. Doug and I grew up on the same street in Teaneck, New Jersey, and his mom was my algebra teacher. But Doug also graduated from Penn State with a degree in systems engineering and, post MLB career, contributed to ESPN, the New York Times, and others. His book provides great insight into the day-to-day life of a ballplayer.
4. Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, by Marty Appel.
There are plenty of great Marty Appel books to choose from. Again, showing my bias as a Yankee fan, Munson is my favorite of his. When I can read 400 pages in a few days, it’s a good read. A well-researched bio of the beloved Yankee captain.
3. The Last Hero: A Life of Hank Aaron, by Howard Bryant.
A meticulous chronicle of The Hammer. Bryant details the obstacles African American athletes had to overcome in the 1950s. Quietly, and with dignity, Aaron compiled an amazing career with little fanfare. Every baseball fan should know his story.
2. Veeck as in Wreck: The Autobiography of Bill Veeck, by Bill Veeck.
How is there not a biopic of Bill Veeck? The gregarious owner of multiple franchises was known for his over-the-top promotions. Veeck’s passion for baseball and his love and respect for the fan-made him an owner for the people. Can you imagine an owner today having players wear shorts in a game or making managerial decisions in-game via fan voting?
1. Ball Four, by Jim Bouton.
Required reading for any baseball fan. Bouton reveals the dark secrets of the off-field life of players in The 1960s. The drug use, the drinking, the womanizing. All the things that had been taboo for the press to discuss were now revealed. It changed the way every baseball biography was written after its release for the better.
Artifact Spotlight - Louisville Slugger Fender Guitar
By Natalie Guyon
This show-stopping electric guitar was commissioned by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002. The Dodgers gifted this guitar to pinch-hitter Dave Hansen, who had set the Dodgers all-time pinch-hit home run record.
I am a big fan of the neck of this guitar, which is composed of bird's-eye maple. Mother of pearl was used to adorn the neck with those beautiful baseball inlays.
The guitar was made and assembled at Fender Musical Instrument's custom shop in California. Once that was complete, the body of the instrument was shipped to our factory for the finishing touches!
At the factory, we burn branded the Louisville Slugger logo, and Dave Hansen's name onto it, thus giving the guitar a true baseball finish!
Only two of these guitars were ever made. One is in our museum collection, while its twin is owned by Dave Hansen.
Blog Spotlight - Marv Throneberry. George Brett, & the T85 Model
By Tony Shupenko
Our Bat Vault houses thousands of custom bat models that were crafted for greatness. These models are often used by players from different eras of the game. Check out this fantastic blog from Tony Shupenko to learn more about the T85 model, and its journey through the generations of baseball.
Ingrained in History - Billy Herman
By Chris Meiman
William Jennings Bryan Herman may have been named for a famous 19th Century orator, but Billy Herman did his talking on the baseball field. Herman grew up in New Albany, Indiana, a city just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. Billy played in several minor league stops but played parts of each season from 1928 to 31 with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. There he hit .317 against competition nearly a decade older than him.
By the end of 1931, Herman made his Major League debut with the Chicago Cubs, where he singled in his first at-bat. That August and September saw Herman hit .327 and set himself up to be the Cubs second baseman for the next decade.
After a Top-10 MVP finish in his rookie season of 1932, Herman sent a letter thanking H&B for the bats he used. Herman ran off a string of All-Star seasons from 1934 to 41 which also included three more Top-10 MVP finishes. During this time, the Cubs won three National League pennants in 1932, 1935, and 1938.
In 1941, the Cubs were out of contention and looking to the future, so they traded Herman to the league-leading Brooklyn Dodgers. Herman solidified the second base position and added a veteran presence for their young shortstop who also was from Louisville, Hal “Pee Wee” Reese.
The 1941 Dodgers would be the organization's first pennant-winning team in over 20 years. Bill James referred to the team as one of the “Greatest Teams That Never Was.” Unfortunately, Herman’s luck against the Yankees was typical of the team, eking out only one hit in the Yankee five-game triumph.
In 1942, both Herman and Reese were National League All-Stars, though the Dodgers missed out on the playoffs by two games. Reese left for military services before the 1943 season and Herman did the same after the season, serving two years in the US Navy.
When Herman returned to the Dodgers in 1946, Reese had developed into a Top-10 MVP candidate, but the second base job had gone to Eddie Stanky.
For his time, Herman would move on to the Boston Braves for the rest of the season. In 1947, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Herman to be a player-manager in a trade that sent Bob Elliott to the Braves. Elliott won the NL MVP Award, while the Pirates suffered through a last-place finish. The bad showing ultimately costing Herman his job as a manager, though he would return as manager of the Red Sox from 1965 to 66 but with no better luck. In 1975, the Veteran’s Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to induct Herman into Cooperstown.
Artifact Spotlight - Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Croquet Mallet
By Andrew Soliday
Because who doesn’t love a good game of croquet?
In 1966, Hillerich & Bradsby Co. expanded into other sports outside of baseball. One of those sports happened to be croquet, a game thought to have originated in England. H&B’s croquet mallets came in three different head sizes and two different handle styles.
The grips were made from cork and rubber. This, in turn, led to messaging declaring that these mallets are “the finest you ever laid hands on!”
Exploring the R161 Bat Model
By PJ Shelley
When Frank Robinson won the MVP in 1966, he ordered 138 Louisville Sluggers, and nearly every bat was the R161 model. The R161 is a big-barreled custom bat model that he created in 1965.
Robinson's bat model would prove to be popular among many players. Rod Carew, Dusty Baker, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs, and countless others ordered the R161 during their careers.
One of the most fascinating things about the R161 is there are a total of four variations in our bat vault that differ slightly from one another.
Why is that the case? Robinson was old school; he did not wear batting gloves. So as the course of the baseball season progressed, the calluses on his hands got thicker and thicker.
At Frank’s request, we modified the R161’s handle to get progressively thinner throughout the season. As his hands got thicker, the R161 would feel the same in his hand since the handles got thinner.
Normally, if we changed the dimensions of the bat, even fractions of an inch like we did for Robinson, we would designate the modifications as a new model for the player.
However, Frank wanted each new modified R161 to still be called the R161. So, in his mind, he was swinging the same bat the entire season.
Once again, we are reminded of the wisdom that Yogi Berra gave us: “Baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical.”
Ingrained in History - Bobby Bonilla
By Chris Meiman
It seems odd that a player as good as Bobby Bonilla was is primarily known for an agreement made 20 years ago, but if the internet can reduce Michael Jordan to a crying meme, I suppose anything is possible.
Bobby Bonilla was one of the most feared hitters of the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as being part of some of the best teams of the era.
Bonilla was part of the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates teams of the late 80s and early 90s. During this time, he earned four straight All-Star Game selections and received three Silver Slugger Awards. The Pirates erased a decade of pain by winning division championships in 1990 and 1991 when they had stars like Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and Doug Drabek leading the way.
After three and a half strong seasons, including two more All-Star selections with the Mets, Bonilla was traded to the Oriole in 1996.
Finally, in 1997 Bonilla’s Florida Marlins won the World Series. Led by his former Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland, the Marlins were an All-Star team built to win the championship.
In the collection of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, we have two game-used “Roberto Bonilla” bats as well as a copy of his endorsement contract with Louisville Slugger.
Artifact Spotlight - Ted Williams Flask Set
By Natalie Guyon
Bourbon & Baseball, a pair of true American creations. This personalized liquor set was owned by the legendary Ted Williams. The leather case is impressed with Ted's initials "TSW" (Theodore Samuel Williams). The exact year Williams purchased the set is unknown, however it is thought to have been purchased later in his storied career.
This classy case includes three flasks: bourbon, gin, and scotch. And of course, the set wouldn't be complete without a pair of silver shot glasses that can be fastened inside of the leather case. Because when you're on the run, you're on the run.
Believe it or not, there is still liquor left in each flask!
Ingrained in History - Lefty O'Doul
By Chris Meiman
Francis “Lefty” O’Doul is one of the most important names in San Francisco baseball history and one of the more underappreciated figures in the sport's history. A strong hitter, good manager, pioneer of the game and restauranteur, no one else carved a path as O’Doul did.
Born in San Francisco in 1897, O’Doul was a star pitcher in minors. This includes a 12-8, 2.63 ERA season with the minor league SF Seals in 1918 and a 25-9, 2.39 season in 1921. Unfortunately, O’Doul was never able to make a successful run in the Majors as a pitcher.
O'Doul returned to the minors to become an outfielder. During his 1927 season, he hit .378 while hitting 33 home runs and 43 doubles for the Seals, in addition to winning the league's MVP award.
O’Doul finally got a chance to stick in the Majors in his 30s. In 1929 at the age of 32, O’Doul was with the Phillies and won the NL batting title with a .398 average while clubbing 35 doubles and 32 home runs. That year he was also the runner-up for the NL MVP Award.
Lefty hit .383 in 1932 with the Phillies before moving on to Brooklyn where he earned a spot on the very first All-Star team. After a mid-season trade to the pennant-winning Giants, O'Doul had a hit in his only World Series at-bat – a Game 2 two-run pinch-hit single to give the Giants a lead over the Washington Senators. All told, O’Doul retired with a .349 career MLB batting average, one of the highest of all-time.
In 1935, O’Doul returned to San Francisco where he became manager of the Seals for 17 seasons. The Seals won the Pacific Coast League championship five times during his run, including four straight titles from 1943-46. Including his time with other Pacific Coast League teams from 1952-57, O'Doul was one of the most successful in league history.
O’Doul was a common scene in baseball through the era, including this image of him visiting the H&B booth at the 1949 Winter Meetings where he’s handing a mini bat to a child. After his managerial career ended, O’Doul started a restaurant and sports bar called “Lefty O’Doul’s” which remains a popular hangout in San Francisco.
Perhaps the most impactful part of O’Doul’s career was his ability to help open Japan to American baseball. Lefty first started visiting Japan in 1931 and by 1934 he toured the country with a number of American League All-Stars including Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig. Also, on that trip was H&B founder Bud Hillerich. See below for a photo of Lefty O’Doul, Babe Ruth and Bud Hillerich with his family. O’Doul would return to Japan several more times for goodwill tours both before and after World War II. In 2002, he became the first American inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
Though America's Baseball Hall of Fame has yet to honor O'Doul, the city of San Francisco paid homage to Lefty by naming a bridge across China Basin after him in 1980, 20 years before the Giants opened their new ballpark right next door, which has a Lefty O'Doul Gate.
For more on the 1934 trip, see this excellent blog post from our Senior Brand Manager PJ Shelley from 2017.
Artifact Spotlight - Louisville Slugger Bicycle
By Andrew Soliday
Out of the park and onto the road!
Behold, the one and only Louisville Slugger bicycle made from 10 ash billets.
In case you didn’t know, the billets we receive directly from our forests and mills in Pennsylvania measure 37” long with a diameter of just under 3” and weigh between 80 to 90 ounces.
This two-wheel marvel was created by Connor Wood Bicycles in 2014 for our 2015 exhibit, Topps Pop Culture: Homeruns to Hollywood. The seat of the bike was made from stitched together leather baseball gloves, to give this rustic ride the big-league treatment.
Without a doubt, this cruiser will get you around the bases in a flash.
Currently this bike is stored in our Archive Room which we take our guests into during our Double Header All-Star Experience.
Memorable Moment at the Museum - Nomar Garciaparra
By PJ Shelley
Last year when I learned Nomar Garciaparra would visit the factory and that I would give him a tour him, I prepared of course. I looked up what models he ordered most frequently (C271, P72), what finishes he preferred, lengths, weights, etc.. As I went through the orders, I noticed that all of his bats were shipped with his name in block lettering. An indication that he was not under contract with H&B. Those under contract have their name in signature form. Some ballplayers prefer to not be under contract so they can have the freedom to order bats from other companies. But Nomar ordered a lot of bats from H&B throughout his career: 1,509 of them, to be exact!
Nomar arrived at the factory and he was great. He was super friendly to all the factory workers, he had a sincere interest in the steps it takes to make a bat, and he continually complimented the bats we sent him during his playing career. When we got to the pro-branding area, I showed him pro player bats for players that were both contracted and non-contracted.
Feeling I’ve built a rapport with the two-time batting champ, I asked why he never signed a contract with us. He told me he did in fact sign a contract with us while in the minor leagues. Naturally, I asked why his name was always in block lettering during his big league career. He told me when he first signed his contract with H&B, he had been tearing it up in the minors with Louisville Sluggers with his name in block lettering. When he excitedly received his first order of Sluggers with his signature on it, he suddenly went into a hitting slump. The future star called us up and ordered his next bats to go back to block lettering.
Sure enough, he broke out of the slump. For the rest of his minor league career – and all his career in the bigs – his name was in block letters on his bats. Not that players are superstitious or anything. The six-time All-Star may have never made it out of the minor leagues if he continued to receive those signature bats.
Check out his visit to the museum and factory with Spectrum SportsNet LA.
Baseball Songs We Love - "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" by Les Brown
By Bailey Mazik
Warning! This song is extremely upbeat, catchy, and has earworm tendencies. It’s another hit about The Yankee Clipper, sure to put you in a good mood!
"Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio" by Les Brown, released in 1941, celebrates DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. A full-sounding orchestra and a bright singer, complimented by a lively cast, leave no room for worries whenever this song is on.
Chances are good that you already know this tune! Do you remember when you first heard it? I’ll never forget when I did. I was in high school partaking in one of my favorite activities: watching Seinfeld with my brothers. The song plays in the credits of season three’s premiere.
A dozen or so years later and this song is still stuck in my head. I couldn’t be happier about it.
If this is your first time hearing it: you’re welcome!
See the photo below of one of the bats DiMaggio used during this remarkable 1941 hitting streak! On display at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
Hold a Piece of History - Babe Ruth
By Natalie Guyon
Check out our Program Manager, Natalie Guyon, dive into this game-used Babe Ruth bat in our collection!
Ingrained in History - Charley Pride
By Chris Meiman
Most know Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride for his string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s, including “Just Between You and Me,” “All His Children,” and “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.”
What most don’t know about Pride is his life-long love of baseball.
Pride once said in a 1972 interview, “I’m happy I was successful as a singer, but my ambition was to play baseball. I wanted to be a hitter more than a singer.”
Pride played in the minor leagues and the Negro leagues in the early 1950s. This included a stint with the Louisville Clippers in 1954 which ended in a trade to the Birmingham Black Barons along with another player for a used bus!
After serving in the Army, Pride’s music career took off as his baseball career faded, though he never lost his love for the game.
He tried out for the California Angels in 1961 and participated in Spring Training with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971, where he signed a Louisville Slugger promotional bat contract. By 1974, Pride worked out with the Texas Rangers.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory recently acquired this 1982 press photo showing Pride taking batting practice with the Rangers. In 2010, Pride was a part of Nolan Ryan’s group that purchased the Rangers and he still remains involved with the club.
Artifact Spotlight - Stevie Wonder Bat
By Andrew Soliday
"Music is a world within itself/With a language we all understand" - Stevie Wonder, from the song "Sir Duke"
In 2014, the iconic singer-songwriter, Stevie Wonder, began his Songs in the Key of Life Tour which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the legendary, multi-platinum album of the same name.
Wonder's tour performed at the KFC Yum Center on March 27, 2015 and we wanted to celebrate his stop into Louisville by creating the first-ever braille-engraved bat!
We teamed up with our good friends from The American Printing House for the Blind so we could make the braille component accurately. The bat's colors were chosen to pay homage to Songs in the Key of Life's album colors. And just like that, history was made!