Support Us Button Widget

Louisville Made: How the Louisville Slugger became an icon

Babe Ruth endorsed it, Carrie Underwood swung it.

Loutoday_Louisville SLugger

Hillerich & Bradsby Co. makes 8,000 variations of Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Photo by LOUtoday

Table of Contents

For nearly 150 years the Louisville Slugger has been synonymous with America’s pastime. Hall of Famers and Hollywood stars alike have clung to the wooden handle since 17-year-old Bud Hillerich made the first one in 1884.

This is the story of how one Louisville family came to make the most famous baseball bat in the world.

Fast Facts

  • Hillerich & Bradsby Co. (H&B) is the fifth-generation, family-owned and operated company that produces Louisville Sluggers.
  • In 1894, “Louisville Slugger” became a registered trademark.
  • H&B moved its bat factory to West Main Street in 1995 and opened the museum the following year.
  • About 3,000 full-sized bats are made daily, with the factory producing ~1.8 million bats in a year total.
  • Around 12,000 tours of the factory are given annually.
  • In 2015, Wilson Sporting Goods bought the Louisville Slugger brand. H&B still owns the museum, factory, and production facility — they just make bats exclusively for Wilson.
  • H&B has 187 employees company-wide.
LOUtoday_Louisville Slugger

Bud Hillerich created the first Louisville Slugger.

Photo by Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

The first swing

After Louisville Eclipse major league player Pete Browning — aka “The Louisville Slugger” — broke his bat during a game, Bud Hillerich crafted him a new one at his father’s woodshop. When the three-time batting champ debuted the new bat, the Hillerich bat business started to buzz, but it wasn’t until 1894 when Bud took over the family wood company that they would fully commit to producing Louisville Sluggers.

In 1916, Frank Bradsby joined the company to amp up the marketing side of things and Hillerich & Bradsby Co. was established.

LOUtoday_Louisville Slugger

The Big Bat is made of steel and weighs 68,000 pounds.

Photo by LOUtoday

An icon is born

H&B changed the world of sports marketing when future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner endorsed the Louisville Slugger and H&B paid him to put his signature on its bats — a practice we see across all sports today. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, George Brett, Ken Griffey Jr., and Derek Jeter are among the list of players who went on to endorse the Louisville Slugger.

Fun fact: An exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger towers 120-ft into the sky outside the museum. It weighs 68,000 pounds and has been a tourist attraction since 1996.

Today, players from every MLB team have contracts with H&B to make their specific bats.

On the big screen

From Carrie Underwood taking a “Louisville Slugger to both headlights” to Merril Hess swinging at an alien with one in “Signs,” Louisville Slugger has become a household name. Watch these other six movies featuring the famous baseball bat.

LOUtoday_Louisville Slugger

“The Best Black Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of” exhibit is part of the museums new renovation.

Photo by Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Baseball today, tomorrow, and forever

Louisville Slugger was the third most used bat brand by Major League Baseball players from 2019 to 2023.

In 2019, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory tourism had a $38.5 million economic impact on Derby City. It also created a bourbon attraction, Barrels & Billets — where guests can blend and bottle their own bourbon — and completed its largest renovation since 2009 this past spring.

More from LOUtoday
The Bikeway Implementation Plan hopes to make Louisville a “low stress” place for cyclists.
Waterfront Park now spans 85 acres, but it wasn’t always green space and walking trails.
We’ve got details and a map full of drink deals: We’ll be highlighting the vibrant beverage scene across Louisville, KY from July 22 to July 26, 2024.
The 7,000-sqft home is over 130 years old and has seven fire places and historic design elements with modern appliances and conveniences.
Don’t flip over these LOU burger deals
Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog.
If it goes in the air, you need special permission.
The Speed Art Museum’s latest exhibit highlights a pioneering Louisville artist’s 40+ year career.
A new LOU spot for coffee, breakfast, and drinks.