LEGENDARY BASEBALL COMPANY'S LEGENDARY LEADER CELEBRATES 50 YEARS
LOUISVILLE, KY – It was 1961. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle dueled in an epic home run title chase.
The Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series.
John F. Kennedy was President of the United States.
Gasoline cost 31 cents per gallon.
And John A. “Jack” Hillerich III started working in his family’s baseball bat company: Hillerich & Bradsby Co., maker of the world-famous Louisville Slugger®. He was only 21 and came to work immediately after graduating from Vanderbilt University.
Fast forward to 2011, five decades later, and Jack Hillerich, now 71, is still working in the famous family business, serving as its chairman while also still regularly getting his hands dirty in the factory where Louisville Slugger bats are made. The company recently held a surprise celebration for Hillerich to mark his 50 years of service with the company.
“Jack Hillerich is one of the most remarkable leaders in sporting goods industry history,” said Louisville Slugger President Emeritus Marty Archer. “He was forced to become president of the company at the tender age of 28 when his father passed away. That was some incredible pressure to be under, to be faced with leading the legendary Louisville Slugger brand with such little experience.”
But Jack Hillerich is a very smart man. He leaned on many people and learned quickly.
“To look back over his 50 years of service and see all that he has achieved, it is a case study of how to keep an iconic business in family hands,” Archer said.
Among a litany of major career highlights, Jack Hillerich is credited with growing the company’s already thriving wood bat business to even greater heights, eventually becoming the Official Bat Supplier for Major League Baseball. The company also expanded its baseball and softball product lines under Jack Hillerich, getting into the glove and protective equipment categories as well as equipment bags, training aids and accessories. He took the company into the nonwood bat business, aluminum and composite bats, using the principles and management philosophies of W. Edwards Deming to continuously improve and institute education of employees to become the market leader.
He grew H&B’s PowerBilt Golf Division into golf’s top tier with those same Deming principles, and he had the vision to create the company’s newest division, Bionic Technologies, in conjunction with a world-renowned hand surgeon.
But, among his many achievements, Jack Hillerich’s legacy will be the world class Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in downtown Louisville, a facility that also houses the historic company’s headquarters.
“It was Jack Hillerich’s dream to create a place where baseball fans could enjoy the history of the greatest game ever created while also seeing first-hand how our professional baseball bats are made,” said Bill Clark, the recently appointed president of H&B’s Louisville Slugger division. “Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory truly is his baby.”
In its 15 years of operation, the Museum & Factory has received more than 3 million visitors. It has been named one of the world’s top ten factory tours, and some baseball enthusiasts say its museum is second only to the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown.
“What’s amazing to me is that Jack Hillerich isn’t done,” Clark said. “Many younger people have retired. Not Jack. He’s still involved in the business, still looking for ways to improve our products and processes, and providing guidance and counsel to anyone in our company who seeks it. He is an ethical, humble man. All of us at H&B are better people for having had the chance to work with him and for him.”
While it would be nearly impossible to list all of Jack Hillerich’s many great accomplishments over his 50 years of service to Hillerich & Bradsby Co., a list follows that attempts to capture some of the highlights during his career:
JACK HILLERICH CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
1961 – Jack Hillerich begins his employment with the family business, Hillerich & Bradsby Co., upon his graduation from Vanderbilt University.
1969 – Jack Hillerich assumes leadership of the company at the death of his father John A. Hillerich, Jr. Jack was 28 years old.
1970 – H&B contracts Alcoa Aluminum Company to manufacture the first aluminum bat for Hillerich & Bradsby Co.
1973 – Because of inadequate production and warehousing facilities, H&B purchases a building in Jeffersonville, Ind., and moves the golf production to “Slugger Park.”
1974 – Louisville Slugger bat production moves to Slugger Park.
1975 – H&B enters the glove and mitt business with its first Louisville Slugger line of baseball and softball gloves.
1978 – H&B purchases aluminum bat manufacturing facilities in Santa Fe Springs, Cal.
1980 – Louisville Slugger creates the Silver Slugger Awards to be given annually to the best offensive producers by position in both the American and National Leagues.
1983 – Louisville Slugger sponsors Elite Coatings, a premiere national slowpitch softball team from Georgia. The team uses the company’s TPS bats to set a slowpitch home run record, helping propel TPS to the top of the softball bat category.
1984 – H&B celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
1990s – Louisville Slugger creates a strategy to promote its aluminum bats by signing up as many as 80 top collegiate baseball programs to use its equipment.
1991 – Because of the tremendous growth of its aluminum bat sales, Louisville Slugger moves its aluminum bat production into new and larger facilities in Ontario, Cal. During the same year, a smaller aluminum bat and aluminum hockey stick manufacturing facility was opened in Florence, Ky.
1994 – Louisville Hockey enters the street and roller hockey equipment business.
1995 – H&B moves the World’s Biggest Baseball Bat in front of the new headquarters and museum, still under construction on Main Street, in downtown Louisville.
1996 – H&B moves to new corporate complex with company offices for PowerBilt Golf, Louisville Hockey, the bat factory and Louisville Slugger Museum in downtown Louisville, just a few blocks from J.F. Hillerich’s 1875 location.
1997 – After a long informal partnership dating for over 100 years, Louisville
Slugger and Major League Baseball moved to a new level of cooperation by
signing an agreement making Louisville Slugger the Official Bat Supplier of
Major League Baseball.
1998 – H&B opens a new facility in Loomis, Cal., for research and development in the Louisville Hockey Division.
1999 – The assembly of PowerBilt golf clubs was moved from the Louisville, Ky., location to Golf Works in Newark, Ohio.
2000 – Louisville Slugger Field opens one mile east of H&B’s headquarters and Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory as the sparkling new home of the Louisville Riverbats AAA baseball club.
2000 – Hillerich & Bradsby Co. entered into a technology venture with Dr. Jim
Kleinert to create and market various gloves which resulted in the creation of
H&B’s Bionic Technologies Division.
2001 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory rewards its 1-millionth visitor with a prize package that includes an all-expense-paid trip for two to the third game of the World Series.
2001 – Jack hands the reigns of H&B daily operations to his son John A. Hillerich IV. Jack remains chairman of the board.
2004 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory holds its first LSM&F Auction. In
conjunction with Hunt Auctions of Philadelphia, H&B auctions some items from
its archives, including duplicates and multiple possessions, to create an acquisitions fund for the museum. The premier piece is a Ty Cobb game-used bat, one of two owned by the company. The bat sells for a staggering $140,000.
2005 – Louisville Slugger division markets the company’s first internally designed
and manufactured composite material bat made from aerospace grade fibers and
epoxy resins. The “Catalyst” bat is a huge hit in the softball and fastpitch markets
and the University of Michigan fastpitch team uses the Catalyst to win the
Women’s College World Series, becoming the first team east of the Mississippi
River to do so.
2006 – The Louisville Slugger division introduces its first hybrid bat, the Exogrid, a high-end Aluminum-barreled bat with a composite sleeve inserted in the transfer between barrel and handle to provide additional stiffness for elite players with fast swing speeds. The carbon sleeve is visible because diamond shaped pieces of the aluminum are cut out to reduce weight.
2006 – Louisville Slugger creates pink bats for players to swing in games on
Mother’s Day, receiving special approval from MLB for Major Leaguers to use
the bats. It’s a hit as player bats spur customer requests for personalized versions.
H&B donates $10 from the sale of each pink PER for Susan G. Komen for the
Cure and its efforts to eradicate breast cancer.
2006 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory celebrates its 2-millionth visitor.
2006 – H&B becomes the first company to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic
Hall of Fame.
2007 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory initiates the Louisville Slugger Living Legend Award, a new annual award to be given to a player who is not only legendary on the field of play but also through the principles by which he lives his life. The inaugural recipient is Ken Griffey, Jr., of the Cincinnati Reds.
2009 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory undergoes a complete renovation, its first since opening in 1996. It is the culmination of a three-year project aimed at providing visitors with a magical and memorable experience.
2009 – Louisville Slugger celebrates its 125th anniversary with a wide variety of activities. MLB permits the company to place a special commemorative 125th anniversary logo on game bats. The company holds a special employee celebration that is highlighted by large cards of congratulations from all 30 MLB teams and signed by players on those teams.
2011 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory renovates its museum gift shop into a full retail store.
2011 – Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory welcomes its 3-millionth guest.
2011 – Jack Hillerich celebrates 50 years of service to H&B!
About Louisville Slugger®
Louisville Slugger® is the Official Bat of Major League Baseball and is a name that is synonymous with America’s pastime. Originating in 1884, Louisville Slugger bats have graced the hands of the greatest players in baseball history, including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, to name just a few. Stars of today also swing Louisville Slugger bats, including Alex Rodriguez, Dustin Pedroia, Jim Thome, David Wright and Joey Votto. Louisville Slugger also makes TPX® baseball equipment for college, high school and youth players, as well as TPS® equipment for slow-pitch and fastpitch softball players. Louisville Slugger is a brand of the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., a fifth-generation family-owned business that also owns and operates Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and makes PowerBilt® golf clubs and Bionic® Gloves for a variety of sports and hobbies.
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