Retired Fireman’s Political 5 Alarm Fire

January 18, 2008

Walking Amongst the Greats

Filed under: The Fireman's Fav's — Retired Fireman @ 12:02 am

Louiseville Slugger Factory 1-17-08

No trip to Louisville, Kentucky would be complete without making a pilgrimage to the factory where the wands that created so many Summers filled with magic are made.  Now, I have never been one to be considered the biggest baseball fan, however I used to play Little League like every good all American boy, have downed my share of beers playing softball on a crazy summer afternoon with friends and/or family, and nothing beats going to the baseball park, sitting in the stands and eating all the hot dogs you can stuff in your face, drinking a cold beer or soda, and eating hot, fresh peanuts and looking at people all day on a warm, summer afternoon.

Growing up as poor as I did, I did not have that many opportunities to go to many games.  My first Major League game was when I visited family one Summer in Cleveland, Ohio.  My mom had taken a job working for her aunt in a tavern, cooking, and my little brother and I spent the Summer either weeding her dilapidated garden, or sitting on some old whiskey boxes during the lunch rush in order to stay out of the way.  This was 1978, and I was 10 years old. 

My cousin took pity on us, and the lousy Summer we were having, and decided to take us to see the Cleveland Indians play.  They played the Minnesota Twins.  I remember watching Rod Carew bat…I remember seeing “Chief Wahoo”.  I remember watching the guys in the Center Field stands with their headdresses, the drums, banging away, the big sign with “Chief Wahoo” animated, doing all sorts of things, the souvenirs…oh man, what an experience.

My uncle, the man who took over for my father growing up when he could, would try to take my brothers and I to the minor league games, before they were sold to Japan.  We would go to all the special games…the helmet days, the ball days, and especially…the bat days.  To this day, I still have the little bat that I got that day, in my truck, under the seat.  It is one of my most prized possessions.  I keep it there, because it is the only place I can be sure that my daughters will not get it and ruin it or lose it.

Where was that bat made some 35 or so years ago?  Right here in the city that I am visiting, and the factory that I was fortunate enough to pay my $9.00 and take a tour of…the Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat Factory.

The huge bat out front was neat, but inside, the history hit you…well it hit you like a bat.  Along the wall is a piece of bat with the signature burned in of every player that every used a Louisville Slugger bat all the way up to 2007.  There was a special section in black for the “Hall of Fame”‘ers.  Once in the factory, you got to see how it was all done.  Amazingly, up until just a couple of years ago, they were still hand lathing every bat.  Now, only two hand lathes remain, and only used for demonstration purposes.  Now, everything is done by computer, of course, making every bat come out within a margin of error of the thickness of two pieces of paper.  Pretty phenomenal.

We got to see bats of actual Major Leaguers being made.  Can’t remember their names, but wouldn’t drop the names anyway.  Amazingly enough, found out that even when making bats, the Minor Leaguers can’t catch a break.  The bats aren’t made quite as good as the Majors are.There are several ways of making them, and the higher quality bats go to the higher quality players.  The highest being the Major Leagues.  Sorry Bush Leaguers. 

Along one wall though, was the most amazing thing of the entire tour.  It housed every signature of every baseball player that every played the game dating all the way back to 1905.  The collection could not ever have a price put on it.  There would be no way to replace it,and nowhere else in the world has one.  Only a few people have ever been able to touch them.  Just think, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson…all right there, ready to be engraved/burned into a bat.  Priceless.

The worst part of the tour…no pictures.  No one could take any pictures of any kind in the factory.  Not sure why, I mean, the factory had huge window that looked out onto the street, so if you really wanted, to, you could stand outside and take them, but hey, always one to follow the rules, none were taken.

At the end of the tour, we were given these tiny little souvenir bats, which were cute, but just weren’t gonna cut it.  This was not going to be the souvinier to take home to the girls that said, “Hey, Daddy loves you and you’ll treasure this always”.  So, off to the gift shop I went.  Inside, they allow you to buy a regulation Louiseville Slugger bat, and then have your name and then nickname or other saying burned/etched into it on the end like a regular Major League signature.

$200.00 and 20 minutes later, I proudly walked out of the factory with my friend and four Powerized, beautiful Louisville Slugger Baseball Bats, freshly made straight from the factory for myslef, and my three daughters with our names and the nicknames I have had for all three of them since each of the were born, proudly emblazoned on each bat, carfully packaged in a box to be checked onto the plane.  Why checked luggage you ask?  Because baseball bats are Verboten…forbidden.  Might be used to hijack the plane, and wouldn’t want DHS to confiscate them.  I can’t wait to see the look on their faces, especially the ten year old’s who used to play Little League when they see their own personalized baseball bats, and see them hanging on their walls.

 So finally, went out and had a great day.  Fought through the Global Warming, (Otherwise known as rain/snow/sleet) and had to go into an Army/Navy store and buy a Field Jacket as I forgot to pack my jackets for the trip, and basically enjoyed walking around a great American Historical Landmark, one that truly represents “America’s Favorite Past-Time”…Baseball.

Thanks Louisville Slugger.



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