History of wood baseball bats
THE BIRTH OF A BUSINESS
1884 brought the beginning of the history of wood baseball bats. It all started at a baseball game in Louisville. A 17 year old John Hillerich watched Louisville player Pete Browning become frustrated after breaking his favorite bat.
Hillerich, a woodworker with his father, approached Browning after the game and offered to make him a new bat. They went together to the woodworking shop, selected a piece of white ash and Browning supervised as John Hillerich made his new bat. It all started the history of wood baseball bats.
The story says that the next day, Browning went three for three with his new bat. Word spread about the new bats, and the Hillerich family was in the baseball bat business!
Demand quickly grew (although baseball bats weren't the focus of their business yet), and they soon began adding their recognizable Louisville Slugger trademark to each bat.
In the 1890's, the rules committee stated that bats could no longer be sawed off (flat) at the end, they had to be round, and the maximum diameter was increased to 2.75 inches.
Shortly after 1900, Honus Wagner, one of the great players of all time became the first player to be paid to have his autograph burned into Louisville Slugger bats.
NOTE : One of his 1909 baseball card which only 3 known mint condition copies are left, was bought some years ago by Wayne Gretzky together with former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall for $500 000 which later sold in the mid 90's for $640 000 and finally sold in mid-2000 for $1 265 000.
Although bats have continued to develop over the years, wood baseball bats today look similar to the bats of 100 years ago. The biggest differences, however are that bats today are much lighter and have thinner handles.
THE RISE OF ALUMINUM BATS
Most of us think that aluminum bats hit the market in 1970 when Worth introduced it. Astonishingly, the history of wood baseball bats says that in 1924 a patent was issued to William Shroyer for the first metal baseball bat.
Despite the popularity of the bats with the baseball players nationwide, Major League Baseball (for competitive and safety reasons) has never allowed anything other than wood bats to be used.
2001 - BARRY BONDS AND MAPLE BATS
The 2001 baseball season brought about a feat that a few years ago most would have thought not only impossible, but completely ridiculous . Barry Bonds hit a record 73 home runs in a single season!
He went on and during the 2007 season, broke the total home run record held by the great Hank Aaron by hitting his 756th on August 7th.
Soon into his home run tear it was learned that Bonds was using maple wood baseball bats, rather than the standard bats made of white ash.
Players copy success, and soon major league ball players everywhere were searching for maple baseball bats! A quick search online will find dozens of companies selling maple bats. One of the best in our opinion is
The past 150 years has brought significant changes to baseball bats and the game of baseball itself. There is no doubt that the future will bring additional changes to the seemingly simple tool known as the baseball bat.
Click here to go back from History of Wood Baseball Bats to the Bat Materials page