When we decide to stop over in Louisville we knew we wanted to visit some sights in downtown Louisville and also go to Mammoth Caves so we picked a parking place kind of in the middle where friends of us stayed when they visited the area. Today we went into Louisville for a visit. Today’s blog has two authors – Bill will write about our trip to visit the Louisville Slugger factory and museum and Leslie will write about the wonderful places we found to eat.
The Louisville Slugger is manufactured by the family owned Hillerich and Bradsby (H&B) Company that started was started as J.F. Hillerich, Job Turning in 1856 by J. Fred Hillerich. The wordworking shop grew to over 20 employees by 1875, and was filling orders for everything from butter churns to hand turned bedposts. In 1880 J. Fred’s son Bud joined the firm as an apprentice. Bud was an amateur baseball player and started making bats for himself and some of his teammates.
According to company legend Bud attended a game where pro baseball player Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse broke his favorite bat. Bud offered to make a new bat to Browning’s specifications. Browning, who was known as the Louisville Slugger used the new bat to hit three hits in his next game. Although Bud had a passion for making bats his father did not think there would be a good business in making bats and wanted to stay with roller skids, bed posts, and their patented swinging butter churn.
The bat business grew and the firm registered the trademark Louisville Slugger in 1894 and Bud became a partner in the business in 1897. In 1905 Honus Wagner became the first major league player to sign a contract giving J.F. Hillerich and Son permission to use his autograph on bats they sold. H&B now has contracts with thousands of players, and has a wall showing the autographs they use. Of course this wall includes the signatures of many of the famous players
In 1916 Frank Bradsby became a partner and the company name was changed to Hillerich and Bradsby. Today the company is run by John Hillerich, IV the great grandson of Bud who introduced the family business to bat making.
Okay so on to the making of a bat. Of course we could not take any pictures during the tour. Wooden bats are made from either white ash or maple. The trees are harvested from company owned land on the Pennsylvania New York border. Mills in the area take the harvested trees and produce cylinders (or billets are they are called) that are about 37 inch long and 3 inches in diameter. Once the billets dry they are graded according to grain patterns and density. Of course the best ones are used to make the bats the professional players use. When they turned the bats by had a craftsman could duplicate a model they had in about 30 minutes. They now use an automatic lathe that can turn a bat about every 30 seconds. For the professional player models they have a computer driven lathe that has about 1000 different bat patterns.
After they are formed they move to the station where the Louisville Slugger logo and any autographs are place on the bat. If the bat is ash these are burned into the bat, however if the bat is made of maple decals are applied after the coloring. The bats then move to a multi-function machine which cuts the knobs that are used to hold the bat in the lathe. This machine also does the final sanding and cupping of the bat end (if the bat is going to be cupped). The bat then moves to the finishing area, where the bat is hand dipped in either a color stain or clear finish.
After the tour we spent some time in the museum. The museum includes displays that review the history of the company and the process of bat making. But that is not the fascinating part of the collection, they have bat that Babe Ruth carved notches in for each home run he hit in 1927 season, a bat used by Shoeless Joe Jackson, the bat Joe DiMaggio used during his 56 game hitting streak in 1941, and bat that Hank Aaron hit his 700th home run with.
We were thinking of also heading to Churchill Downs, but did not have enough time for that today. However we did have time to eat some wonderful meals and with that I will turn the keyboard over to Leslie.
So my part is the food, of course. We have a big long list of each state and restaurants we want to try when we get into an area and so when we arrived in our new home we looked and saw one breakfast place but nowhere else. We are actually parked over an hour outside the city so we knew it would be an all day trip where we would need breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner so we planned to go to the restaurant we had listed for breakfast then head over to the Slugger Museum then find dinner. Bill looked online to see if there were any restaurants that really stood out and found a little gem.
So this morning we got up and got ready to head out. We headed over to Lynn’s Paradise Café. Now Lynn’s has been not only on the 101 Chow down Countdown but was also on Smack down with Bobby Flay AND Man V Food. How could we pass up on a restaurant with all those accolades? Now Lynn’s is an… odd… place. If you have ever been to my homes it is a lot like my house. It is eclectic with no real sense of any particular type of style.
We were seated and the item on the menu that was suggested was the French Toast. They have three versions of this delectable dish. The Bourbon Ball, The Quad made with walnut bread and the Original, which is made with cinnamon swirl bread. I ordered the original and a side of bacon. Bill ordered the Ham & Eggs with biscuits and gravy, and baked mac n cheese on the side oh and a lovely fresh squeezed OJ. The French toast was moist and delicate with a full cinnamon flavor and a nice crunch to the crust. Everything was great and we would absolutely return.
After our trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory we were not quite hungry yet so we stopped at a theater for a movie then headed over to the gem Bill found for dinner. The Havana Rumba is fantastic. It is hidden away in a little strip mall behind a grocery store where if you didn’t know what you were looking for you could easily over-look it. We walked in and it’s a fairly small joint. We were led to our table and while we perused the menu the waiter brought over a basket of Cuban bread and a garlic compound butter. We nibbled while we looked and decided on Camarones al Ajillo which is shrimp that have been sautéed in olive oil and lime juice with garlic (a LOT of garlic) and served in a little cast iron bowl with the oil and garlic with a side of garlic aioli. We LOVED this and plan to try and replicate it.
Dinner was a simple choice for me. Ropa Vieja is one of my favorite meals on earth. How can you not love a pile of slow roasted beef doused liberally with tomatoes, peppers, and onions? It was luscious! The beef was juicy and tender and the vegetables were seasoned beautifully. Bill choose one of his favorites Steak Chimichurri. It came with the typical green chimichurri sauce but it also came with a second red chimichurri cause as well that was spicy and vinegary almost like a North Carolina BBQ sauce but with more of a kick.
The thing I love about going to a good Cuban Restaurant is plantains. Sadly I have discovered I am allergic to the Plantain/banana family but I can eat a little before it really causes me pain. The funny thing is Bill HATES bananas. I don’t say this lightly. He can’t even stand the smell of them. The best part? He loves a nice fried plantain. How he figures that a plantain doesn’t taste anything like a banana is beyond me but whatever works.