Then and Now: The Baseball Bat

 By: Jasmine Stone
Baseball was a very young sport in the mid-eighteen hundreds, so batters usually made their own bats. This led to a lot of experimentation with the shape and size of the baseball bat. It didn't take long for players to learn that the best bats were those with rounded barrels. With all the shapes and sizes being used, some rule had to be established about the bat. In 1859, it was established that baseball bats could be no larger than two and a half inches in diameter, though they could be any length. After ten years, a restriction of 42 inches was put on the length of the baseball bat, but still no regulations governing the shape.

1884: The Louisville Slugger is Born

Baseball bat's most popular name, still to this day, is the Louisville Slugger. Seventeen-year-old John Hillerich watched Pete Browning break his bat at an 1884 Louisville game. John observed as Pete Browning got frustrated, and after the game offered to make him a new bat. Pete Browning joined John Hillerich at his father's woodworking shop, where Pete supervised the construction of his new bat. Browning went three for three with his new bat. Word spread quickly, but not as quickly as the demand did once everyone knew about these bats. It wasn't long before each baseball bat that John and his father constructed was slapped with the famous Louisville Slugger trademark.

Evolution of Regulations

In the 1890s, bats could no longer be flat at the end, according to the rules committee. They increased the diameter by a quarter of an inch as well, making the maximum diameter two and three quarters of an inch. In the early nineteen hundreds, one of the greatest players, Honus Wagner, was the first player paid to have his name burned into Louisville Slugger bats. Despite the continual evolution of the regulations regarding the size and shape of bats, the bats of today look much like the ones of a hundred years ago, the biggest difference being that today's bats are much lighter and have thinner handles.

The Rise of Aluminum

William Shroyer patented the first metal baseball bat in 1924, though they were not seen in baseball until introduced by Worth in 1970. Worth soon produced the first aluminum one-piece bat, and the first little league aluminum bat. Easton introduced a much stronger bat in the late '70s . These skyrocketed the popularity of aluminum bats, though they were not allowed in major league games. In 1993, both Easton and Worth introduced titanium bats, and in 1995 Easton and Louisville Slugger introduced the lightest grade of aluminum bats available to date. Continuing developments include double walled bats, and scandium-aluminum bats.

No matter what kind of baseball bat a player uses today, the sport remains one of the world's favorites. Not many can resist the sunny days and cool nights in the stands, with the cracking sound, fans on their feet, and the smell of hot dogs in the air.
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