Magazine article ADWEEK

The Louisville Slugger: Thanks to Maris, Mantle and Ruth (and Some Guy Named Jeter) It's the Only Bat in Baseball

Magazine article ADWEEK

The Louisville Slugger: Thanks to Maris, Mantle and Ruth (and Some Guy Named Jeter) It's the Only Bat in Baseball

Article excerpt

If you watch the Major League Baseball's video, it happens at two minutes and 12 seconds in--no, it's not just Derek Jeter's final hit (a high chopper to the left side of the infield); it's the moment that comes just after that when Jeter parts with a piece of equipment that served him for 20 years and for each and every one of the 3,465 times he safely hit a baseball. As Derek Sanderson Jeter starts hauling ass toward first base, he tosses away his Louisville Slugger.

To be precise, he tosses away his 32-ounce, P72 ash model Slugger with the OSmith finish.

Specifics are important because baseball players are very particular about their bats-and 60 percent of MLB hitters use a Louisville Slugger. The bat's past users are a who's who of baseball: Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth. As Rick Redman, communications vp for the brand, put it: "Put the words 'Louisville' and 'Slugger' next to each other, and 90 percent of Americans have no question what you're talking about."

It wasn't always this way. Baseball itself was already 45 years old when Bud Hillerich, a woodshop apprentice who spent most of his time turning bedposts, produced a bat for Pete Browning. A player for the Louisville Eclipse team, the heavy-hitting Browning was himself known as "The Louisville Slugger." When other players saw Browning's bat, they wanted one, too. The woodworking firm of J.F. Hillerich and Son wisely trademarked the Slugger name in 1894, and the rest took care of itself.

Yet the Slugger's iconic status owes itself to far more than just the bat being the choice of over 8,000 pro ballplayers. After all, many catchers wear a cup supporter called the Nutty Buddy, but you don't hear that brand name at the dinner table. No, the Louisville Slugger has become a household phrase because amateurs like it. The company was early to recognize that baseball fans like to use the same equipment that their heroes do and made a point of making the same bat models that the pros used available to backyard sluggers, too. …

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