I promised more about Jose Cardenal in an earlier post, and here it is.
The Louisville Slugger factory and museum is quite an interesting place. For starters, there is a Walk of Fame type of sidewalk display on the streets surrounding it, where you can see home-plate shaped plaques with different players’ names on them. Attached to the sidewalk near the plaques are models of the bat that the player used when he played in the majors. Nowhere else has anything similar, I would suppose.
Watching the bat making process is also interesting, because they make the bats right in front of you. It’s like watching a bakery operate, but with the smell of wood in the air. I also learned some things about baseball history, such as that when a player signs a contract with Louisville Slugger to have their bats made, the signature on the contract is the one that gets burned onto the replica bats that are sold to the fans. And Louisville Sluggers–to hear them tell it anyway–don’t shatter into lots of pieces like some other bats do. They break, yes, but apparently they don’t shatter. So the next time you see a bat barrel go flying onto a field, let me know if it’s a Louisville Slugger.
The most interesting thing I learned at the factory, though, had to do with Jose Cardenal. I posted one of his cards with my earlier post, and it listed him as being 5 foot ten and weighing 150 pounds. It’s fair to say that he wasn’t a very big guy, then. One of the ways he compensated for this was by having Louisville Slugger make his bats in a way that nobody else ever had before.
If you look at the barrel of most bats, it’s rounded off at the end. But to reduce the weight of his bats, and thus increase his bat speed, Cardenal’s bats had what amounted to a scoop of wood taken out, leaving an indentation at the end of the barrel. This is called a “cup balanced” bat, because the bat can be stood upright on the end of the barrel without tipping over. This cannot be done with a conventional, rounded bat barrel.
Cardenal’s bats, which are known as Louisville Slugger model C271, have been made available to the other hitters as well, and it is the company’s top-selling bat model. Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. have used these bats, among others. Many hitters probably have Jose Cardenal and his bat design to thank for the success they have had.
Cardenal’s influence on the game has long outlived his playing career, and not very many players can make that claim. Whether I would know and appreciate this if I wasn’t a Cubs fan, I’m not so sure. But I do know and appreciate it now, and I’d like to think that you do, too. You can indeed learn something new every day.