The legend of the famous bats began back in 1884, when Bud Hillerich snuck out of work one day from his dad's woodworking shop to catch a baseball game. The star of the Louisville Eclipse was a strapping outfielder named Pete "the Gladiator" Browning, who was mired in a hitting slump, and to make matters worse, he shattered his bat that day. Bud told the Gladiator he could make him a bat like no one had ever seen before, a bat for the ages, and then went back to the shop and did it. It was a gamble, as Bud's dad wanted nothing to do with the bat business, instead wanting to focus on quality butter churns-which, judging by today's thriving DIY butter-churning scene, would also have been a runaway sensation-but Bud won out. On the tour, I got to swing a model of Browning's colossal bat. It lacked the finely tapered handle of today's bats, and wrapping my hands around it felt like trying to choke an iron ostrich. Cupped barrels were almost a century away, and the massive ash cudgel weighed in at a whopping 42 ounces. The Gladiator went on to win his second and third batting titles and post a lifetime .341 average with Bud's bats. He also earned another nickname, the Louisville Slugger, a name bats made by the Hillerich & Bradsby Company carry to this day.