In 1842 (ironically the same year baseball became of professional sport), Michael Hillerich moved to America from Germany, and settled down in Louisville, Kentucky. His son Frederich owned his own business as a wood-turned, which was a trade that Frederich learned from his father. Michael's other son, John A. "Bud" Hillerich, became an apprentice in his brother's shop and began learning the family trade. The family earned a good living by making bowling pins, bedposts, handrails, and decorative ornaments.(5)
Like most boys his age, Bud enjoyed going to watch Louisville's baseball team, for at that time one of the best players in the league was on the team. One day, Bud attended a game when Pete "The Gladiator" Browning broke his favorite bat. During those times, baseball bats were very precious, and many players actually made their own bats so that they would be just right. Because of this, most players only owned one bat. With a game the next day, Browning was very concerned about what he would do. When the game ended, Bud approached Browning and offered to spin him a new bat at his father's shop. Desperate for a bat, Browning agreed to let 18 year old Bud Hillerich make a new bat for him.
The two of them went to Mr. Hillerich's shop, and Bud picked out a good piece of wood to work with. As Browning sat with him and told Bud how he liked his bats, Bud began to spin his first bat ever. In the game the next day, Browning went 3 for 3.
Soon Bud found himself receiving orders from several other local players, but his father still did not support him. By 1894, Bud Hillerich's was able to obtain a registered trademark for the name on all of his bats--Louisville Slugger. Now, all of his bats had that name engraved in them, along with his trademark signature of the player that the bat was made for. For the first time, players could easily determine which bat was theirs.
Many great ball players began to use only Hillerich's bats. One of those players was Honus Wagner, who had become good friends with Bud in Louisville over the years. When Wagner left Louisville to play for Pittsburgh, the two kept in touch and maintained their friendship. In 1905, Honus Wagner signed a contract with Hillerich which allowed him to use Wagner's signature on baseball bats to be sold in stores. Honus Wagner became the first professional athlete to receive endorsement money by allowing the use of his name on a product.
Just as things were really going well for the father-son business, the baseball bat factory caught fire in 1910. During the rebuilding process, the Hillerichs met a man named Frank W. Bradsby, who became part of the company and handled all of the sales. In 1916, the name of the company was changed to Hillerich & Bradsby Company. This has been the name of the company since that date.
The popularity of the Louisville Slugger continued to grow, and Bud had to come up with an efficient way to meet the growing supply while maintaining the quality of his product. In the early days of baseball, hickory and Cuban timber were the choices of the professionals because the wood was dense, making the bats heavier. The satisfy this demand, Bud sent tree scouts out to find these particular kinds of trees. Later, when lighter bats became popular, Bud had to send the tree scouts to Pennsylvania and New York in search of lighter weight timber.
In 1924, Fred Hillerich died after he suffered a all on the ice. Twenty years later, the Hillerich & Bradsby Company celbrated its 50th anniversary. In 1946 Bud Hillerich died, and his brother John took over his role in the company. When John died in 1969, his son, John Hillerich III, became the leader of the family business. John Hillerich II has run the company ever since then, and business is better than ever. (6)