Last week I spent the majority of my time on a video shoot in Louisville, Kentucky and it gave me the opportunity to learn about some heavy hitters from the area. Of course, Louisville Slugger baseball bats have been made in the area since the late 1800s and are a great icon of American craftsmanship. And while Louisville Sluggers were the bats that Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb used in the early days of professional baseball, they are still used by 60% of MLB players today.
But did you know it all started when 17-year-old Budd Hillerich asked his father who owned a woodworking shop in Louisville to make a bat for a local professional ball player. When the player, Pete Browning, got three hits the next day word spread.
Another heavy hitter from Louisville is heavyweight boxing great Muhammad Ali who was born there in 1942 and won six Golden Glove titles in Kentucky before going on to win an Olympic gold medal, on his road to becoming the professional heavyweight champ and being named by Sports Illustrated in 1999, as Sportsman of the Century. Before his nickname was “The Greatest” he was known as the “Louisville Lip.”
Yet another heavy hitter from the Louisville area is filmmaker D.W. Griffith, who has been called “The Father of Film.” He was born in Crestwood, Kentucky (about 15 miles from Louisville) but moved into town as a teenager after his father died and his mother sold their family farm. Griffith eventually made his way to New York and then Los Angeles on the way to making the first blockbuster film The Birth of a Nation.
As a writer and director of both feature and short films he made more than 200 films. (One and two reelers—usually between 3 and 20 minutes of running time where when Griffith started his career.) He briefly bridged the silent era into the talkies, but never reached his early success. Later in his life he bought a home in La Grange, Kentucky (about 20 miles from Louisville) though he died while living at The Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood in 1948.
But did you know that three years prior to his death Griffith was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Louisville? He’s buried at the Mt. Tabor Methodist Church cemetery in Crestwood, KY. I stopped by last Friday before hitting the road back to Iowa.
But the latest big hitter from Louisville is 21-year-old actress Jennifer Lawrence who was born and raised in Louisville before earning an Academy Award nomination for her role in Winter’s Bone. This year she’s the lead in The Hunger Games which made almost $400 million domestic and, I believe, is the only film in the box office top 20 this year that is a female driven story. Ms. Lawrence is carrying a big bat these days—and she’s just getting started.