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The History of Baseball Bats

In the 1860s, a wide variety of baseball bats were used in play. There were flat bats, round bats, short bats, and fat bats. Some weighed as much as 50 ounces and measured up to 42 inches long! (In contrast, today’s standards are 30 ounces and 32 – 34 inches long.) Bats were also made from many different types of wood, but from the 1870s onward, ash was the most popular choice – until Barry Bonds picked up a maple bat and started a new trend. The 1870s also saw the addition of bat regulations – the length was limited to 42 inches and the max diameter was set at 2.5 inches; these aren’t too dissimilar to the MLB’s bat standards today. But what about the most famous name in baseball bats? The Louisville Slugger was conceived of in 1884, when 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich attended a Louisville Eclipse game. The team’s star, Pete Browning, broke his bat during the game and Hillerich offered to make him a new one – to the player’s exact specifications. With the new bat, Browning broke out of his ongoing slump and other players started clamoring for a similar bat, hoping to repeat Browning’s success. Hillerich’s father was reluctant to take on new business at the family’s woodworking shop, but Hillerich convinced his father it would be worth it. By 1923, the Louisville Slugger had become the United States’ top manufacturer of baseball bats, and their bats remain a favorite amongst Major League players today!

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