Early baseball featured no equipment except homemade bats and balls. As the years passed and the nineteenth century approached the twentieth, these essential tools started to be manufactured professionally, and other equipment came into widespread use. Baseball paralleled other endeavors such as cooking and farming, with the homemade giving way to massproduced goods; even simple equipment became increasingly sophisticated. At the same time, greater attention was given to safety. But it all came at a price, that is, a greater separation of people from the natural way of doing things and a declining sense of heroism. The game was leaving its rural origins for the urban lifestyle— and professionalism.
Bats originally were carved from ax handles, fence posts, wagon tongues, and other pieces of wood. There was no uniformity, as players made bats to fit their own preferences. Thick bats were the rule throughout the nineteenth century. With little emphasis placed on hitting home runs, and with the no-glove and primitiveglove eras producing many errors, the batter wanted generous bat surface in order to make sure that he could put the ball in play. Even flat bats were tried in the 1880s, without success, as a fast pitch would tend to turn the bat in the hitter’s hands, leading to a feeble grounder in the infield. The slim-handled bat was far in the future, when striving for home runs placed a premium on bat speed.
The modern era of bat construction is traced to a visit from Peter Browning to J. F. Hillerich in Louisville after a game in 1884. Having broken his bat, Browning needed a replacement for the next game. Hillerich had his son work throughout the night to comply, and the first Louisville Slugger was created.
Baseballs also were made by hand in the early years of baseball, often from whatever material was available. Youngsters would use woolen socks wrapped around something hard, sometimes a bullet or strips of rubber, the surface then sewed with needle and thread to hold it all together. These early baseballs did not have a great deal of bounce and tended not to handle wet weather very well; they gave a great deal of pleasure nonetheless. Even after baseballs were made professionally, they demonstrated great variety