Shepherdsville, KY - Events of Wednesday, Oct. 5 to Friday, Oct. 7, 2011
After 8 days at Caesar Creek State Park in Willmington, OH, we drove about three hours southwest to Grandma's RV Camping about 20 miles south of Louisville in Shepherdsville, KY. Grandma's has about half back-ins and half pull-throughs. Although they are a decent length, the sites (especially the pull-throughs) are quite close together. The roads are paved, as are the small patios; but the patios are a little too far toward the rear of the sites for motor homes. The sites themselves are all gravel (the gravel is fresh, clean and plentiful) with no grass. There are full hookups with 30/50-amp electric and free Wi-Fi. The utilities are also toward the rear of the site, which is not bad for 5th wheels, but we needed all 30 feet of our sewer hose for our motor home. The next photo, which was taken when the sites on either side of us were unoccupied, shows our site at Grandma's.
And below is a shot looking down the road from our site.
Grandma's is conveniently located right off I-65, and that means there is quite a bit of traffic noise. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the traffic noise almost covers up the sound of the trains. Oh yeah, and if the wind is blowing the right direction, the campground is also on the glide path for the Louisville airport.
We complained about cool weather up north, and with a general warming trend across the eastern half of the country plus moving a little farther south, the 50 to 60º highs and 40º lows have given way to highs around 80º and lows in the mid 50s. Not only that, but the sun is out a lot more than it was up north. Ahhhh, that's more like it!
We continue to be in relaxation mode, but there were a few things we wanted to see in the Louisville area. One was the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Louisville Slugger, whose official company name is the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., is the world's largest manufacturer of baseball and softball bats. Hillerich & Bradsby also makes sports and recreational gloves and golf clubs. The most distinguishing feature of the museum is the "Big Bat," which is the world's largest bat.
The 120-foot tall bat is hollow and is made from steel. It weighs 68,000 pounds. It would take a real power hitter to swing that one!
The museum is loaded with baseball memorabilia, and it has several displays depicting the history of the company. J. F. Hillerich opened a woodworking shop in Louisville back in 1855. The shop made bed posts, stair railings, bowling pins and butter churns. Although the story is sometimes disputed, legend has it that Hillerich's 17-year old son, Bud, took off work one afternoon in 1884 to watch Louisville's professional baseball team play. Pete Browning, who was a star player for the Louisville Eclipse, broke his bat during that game.
As the story goes, young Bud offered to make Browning a new bat at his father's wood shop, and Browning got three hits with his new bat the next day.
With Browning's success, Bud got orders for more bats from Eclipse players. The elder Hillerich didn't want anything to do with baseball bats; but word of the success of players using bats made at the Hillerich shop spread, and he eventually relented and began to embrace the new addition to his business.
The bats were originally sold under the name "Falls City Slugger" because of the location of Louisville near a waterfall on the Ohio River. Bud changed the name to Louisville Slugger when he took over the business from his father in 1894.
In 1911, Frank Bradsby joined the company. Bradsby became a full partner in 1916, and the company name was changed to Hillerich & Bradsby Co.
A factory tour is included in the $10 museum admission fee ($9 for seniors), but photos are not permitted inside the factory itself. Therefore, Margery missed getting a picture of Paul swooning at the smell of fresh sawdust when we first entered the factory. He still misses his workshop.
There are, however, a couple of displays in the museum that relate to the manufacturing process that we could photograph. The logs in the next photo show how the blanks for the bats, called billets, are taken from the logs. The log to the left shows the more modern method where a boring machine extracts the billets from an intact log. This method maximizes the number of billets that can be obtained from each log. In the method shown on the right, the log is first split into wedges, then the wedges are turned on a lathe to form the billets.
Another display in the museum shows the process that turns the billets from wedges. Those are mannequins in the photo below, not real people. The display is very realistic right down to sawdust everywhere, including on the workers themselves.
On the factory tour, we learned how bats are made from the billets. Most bats are made from ash, but some are made from maple. Maple is more brittle and prone to breaking, but some players think maple gives them an advantage.
Minor league bats and bats for the general consumer market are made on tracer lathes. The cutting head on the lathe follows a stylus that traces a metal pattern of the bat's contour. The pattern can be changed to produce different sizes and styles of bats. It used to take 20 minutes for a skilled operator to hand turn a bat. A tracer lathe can turn a bat in 30 seconds.
Bats for professional players are made on CNC (computer numeric control) lathes because these lathes can programmed to produce an almost infinite combination of size, shape and weight characteristics. Of course, these characteristics must be kept within the limits of the rules. Professional players take thousands of swings a year, and they can feel subtle differences in their bat. Over their careers, they develop preferences for certain characteristics in a bat. The machine can remember each program, so changing from one style of bat to another is as easy as pushing a couple of buttons. A CNC lathe takes about 45 seconds to turn a bat.
After the bats are turned, they are sanded and branded. Some bats are flame tempered and some bats are dipped in color. The bats are then finished by dipping them in clear lacquer.
After we finished the factory tour, we had time to look around the museum a little more. Although Paul was somewhat of a baseball fan when he was a kid, neither one of us follows baseball today. If you are an avid fan, however, there are lots of things of interest. For example, you can don white gloves or batting gloves and handle bats used in actual games by well-known players such as Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench.
Other historical bats like the one shown below belonging to Babe Ruth are much more rare and are housed under protective covers.
Babe Ruth, who played from 1914 to 1935, was the most prolific hitter of his time. In fact, his 1927 record of 60 home runs in one season stood for 34 years, and wasn't broken until 1961 by Roger Maris. He is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture. There are several mannequins of famous players including one of Babe Ruth in a classic pose watching the ball go over the outfield wall.
There were numerous other bats on display including one belonging to Joltin' Joe DiMagio shown below partly out of the photo to the right. Paul was more interested in one of the bats in the drawer (the one just visible over the top of the drawer front) that belonged to Roberto Clemente.
Roberto Clemente, who was born in Puerto Rico, played his entire 18-season major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972. Clemente is considered by some to be the greatest right fielder to have ever played the game. His career was cut short in 1972 when he was tragically killed in a plane crash while helping in a relief effort to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua. As we said, Paul did follow baseball back when he was a kid, and he was fortunate enough to have seen Roberto Clemente play in person several times.
Another famous Pittsburgh Pirate was Honus Wagner. Wagner played from 1897 to 1917, mostly for the Pirates. He is considered to be one of the best short stops ever, and he was an excellent all-round player. The photo below shows his jersey and one of his bats. Honus Wagner was the first baseball player to endorse the Louisville Slugger bat.
The museum also has a 20-minute movie about baseball. Since our parking meter was about to run out and since we don't follow baseball, we decided to skip the movie.
Everyone on the factory tour receives a miniature souvenir bat. Paul tried his out next to the "Big Bat" on our way out of the museum.
We found more to do and see in the Louisville area, so stay tuned.