Thursday, July 20, 2017

Louisville Slugger and Ali

It was a short trip from Indy to Louisville where we toured the Louisville Slugger factory, the Muhammad Ali Center and did a bourbon tasting, so it was a full day.
The Hillerich and Bradsby Company has been making bats in Louisville since 1884. It started as a company that made stair railings, porch columns and butter churns. The first bats were sold under the name Falls City Slugger until 1894 when they patented the name Louisville Slugger. The 120 foot bat is a replica of Babe Ruth's bat. 
You have a chance to step up to the plate and swing the bat of your favorite player or team. I chose the bat model used by Pirate Jason Kendell. I think they need to update this exhibit since he played in Pittsburgh quite a few years ago.
The Bat Vault holds one of ever bat model they have made for Major League Baseball players. They do offer a vault tour, but only a limited number of tickets are available and it was very crowded the day we took the tour. 
The model bat used by Hank Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth's record of 714 home runs. The display shows a note Aaron received threatening his life as he approached the record. Hammerin Hank finished his career with 755 homers.
Joltin Joe also used the Louisville Slugger bat when he set the record in 1941 of getting a hit in 56 games in a row. This record is one that many people feel will never be broken. 
A bat used by Babe Ruth in 1927 when he set the record of 60 home runs in a season. That season, Ruth put a notch around the logo for each homer he hit with each bat. This bat has 21 notches. That 60 homer record was broken in 1961 by Roger Maris who hit 61. 
Pirate Honus Wagner was the first player to officially endorse the Louisville Slugger when he signed a deal with the company in 1905.
Names of all the players who used the Louisville Slugger over the years are on a huge wall. These are a few Pirates we found on the wall. Most are from a long time ago, although we did find Josh Harrison who is a current player. The background is a ceiling "bat" mobile.
This display was about the discrimination faced by Black and Latino players getting into the majors. In 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first Black player and in 1949 Minnie Minoso became the first Latin player. Pirate Roberto Clemente came into the league in 1955 and played until 1972 when he died in a plane crash on a humanitarian mission. We are happy we got to see him play many time over the years.
They have a special exhibit for the rest of the year displaying three or four ball parks made out of Legos. This is the Brewers Miller Field.  There are also some pictures and sports figures  made with Legos. Very neat!
The main hall has statues of players through the years. At 3:00 each afternoon the staff comes out on the balcony and leads the crowd in the singing of, Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
John "Bud" Hillerich with the first bat they made in 1884 for Pete "Louisville Slugger" Browning who played for the major league Louisville Eclipse. Pete, who had been in a slump, got three hits in the first game with the new bat and the rest is history.  
No pictures are allowed during the tour. This display shows how they used to make bats one at a time on a lathe. Today they start with round billets that are all the same size and done in seconds on automated machines. Most of the bats are made from ash that is grown in woodlands on the Pennsylvania-New York border that is owned by the company. They do use other wood if a player wants a different kind. 
 I was able to get pictures through the window from outside. While much of the work is done by machines, we were surprised by how much is still done one bat at a time by hand. Each bat has the logo burned onto it one at a time. The bats hanging in the back are dipped by hand into the paint and varnish finish. After they are dry they are individually put in a plastic wrapper then into a shipping carton. 
If you have any interest in baseball at any level this tour needs to be on your to do list.
Just down the street from Louisville Slugger is the Muhammad Ali Center dedicated to the life of  the Louisville native. The center is guided by Ali's six principles; Confidence, Dedication, Giving, Respect, Spirituality and Conviction. On the fifth floor are exhibits that explore each principle and how they shaped Ali's life.
This exhibit is a walk through the struggles of the Civil Rights movement, Ali's conversion to Islam, his opposition to the Vietnam War and his refusal to be drafted because he was a conscientious objector.
Another section is all about his boxing career from the Olympics to Heavyweight Champion. You can spar in this ring, shadow box or watch each of his championship fights on demand.
Ali's gold medal he won in the 1960 Olympics. This is a replacement as the original was lost. When he came back to Louisville he wore the medal everywhere he went, but at some point it disappeared. Some say Ali threw it into the Ohio River because he was upset after being refused service in a segregated Louisville restaurant. Others say he either lost it or wore it out. In 1996 he was given this replacement metal.
Just a few of the many humanitarian awards Ali received over six decades of public service work around the world. 
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was given to Ali in 2005 by President Bush. The award honors not only his Olympic championship and being the only three time heavyweight champ, but also his commitment to equal justice and peace around the world.
This special, temporary exhibit honors those across many different sports and endeavors who have made a difference beyond their careers to, as the Clemente quote says, "make a difference in the world".
Don't miss the gallery with works by sports artist LeRoy Neiman. It features art that Neiman did during Ali's professional career including his most famous fights.  
Some other interesting works of art in the center. 
If you are in Louisville the Muhammad Ali Center is a very informative stop. It is not only an interesting look at the principles that led a great American through a difficult time in our history, for us it was a new look at what our country and its citizens were going through during our lifetime.
If we are in Kentucky and there is a place to do a bourbon tasting we aren't going to miss it. Evan Williams has a tour and tasting room downtown. We were to late for the tour, but did get to do a tasting and bought a bottle of single barrel.  This ended up being a very interesting day. 

We are still behind with the blog. We have since been to Nashville and are now in North Carolina near Lake Norman until the end of the month. Our next post will be our summary of ten years on the road. 


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Good post, we love baseball!

Jan Mains said...

We stayed at Grandma's RV in Sheperdsville and did the bourbon tour. At that time you were given a "passport" to have stamped at the distilleries. Once it was completed you received a t-shirt of the bourbon trail.

Ray/Wendy said...

Good post, so informative and good pics.