Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John A. "Bud" Hillerich

Today we honor Bud Hillerich, founder of the Louisville Slugger. The Louisville Slugger celebrates its 125 year of production this year.

Though the origin of the first bat made by Hillerich is debated, the most popular story involves baseball great Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse, Louisville's major league team. In 1884, Bud Hillerich was watching Pete Browning play when Browning's bat broke. Hillerich invited Browning back to the woodworking shop that Hillerich's father owned. There Hillerich crafted Browning a baseball bat from a long piece of wood, and the next day Browning went 3 for 3. Shortly after orders for bats came flying in from professional baseball players across the country.

Hillerich's father, J. F. Hillerich, originally did not want to produce the bats, actually turning away some baseball players in the beginning, thinking the woodworking company would be more successful producing stair railings, porch columns, and similar items. Bud continued to be interested in producing the bats and later convinced his father that baseball bats had a large market.

In 1894, Bud registered the name "Louisville Slugger" with the U.S. Patent Office. Bud became a partner in his father's company in 1897 and the company J.F. Hillerich and Son (later changed to Hillerich & Bradsby Co.) is still a family company today.

Not only did Bud recognize the market for quality produced baseball bats, he was also a keen business man. His company was the first company to have a professional player endorse an athletic product and encouraged players to autograph the Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Hillerich & Bradsby Company also produced amateur baseball bats, a big seller since people could then use the same bat as their favorite player.

Over the years, the company has expanded the line of products they sell, but baseball bats remain a staple of the company; they have sold over 100,000,000 bats and supply over 60% of the bats for Major League Baseball players.

Today we honor Bud Hillerich for the contribution he has made to America's pastime, baseball.

Sources:
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
Louisville Slugger

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