Museums Cover National Pastime, Sport of Kings

Reed Travel Features

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- One place, the Louisville Slugger Museum, is fronted by a 120-foot-high, 68,000-pound replica of Babe Ruth's baseball bat.

The other, the Kentucky Derby Museum, is just a few lengths from the twin spires of fabled Churchill Downs racetrack.

Together, these popular Louisville attractions span the arc of American sport, from horsehide to horseracing.

The Louisville Slugger Museum celebrates the history of Hillerich & Bradsby Co., which got its start as a bat manufacturer in 1884, when 18-year-old Bud Hillerich fashioned the first Louisville Slugger for Pete "the Old Gladiator" Browning, who went three for four the next day.

Within the walls of this 15,000-square-foot shrine to hitting are baseball artifacts that rival those at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., including:

* The original R43 bat Babe Ruth wielded when he smacked 60 homers in 1927.

* The Louisville Slugger Pete Rose used when he recorded his 2,000th hit.

* The Signature Wall, where white-ash-wood plaques eventually will bear the burned-in signatures of more than 7,500 ballplayers.

According to a museum official, the most popular exhibit enables a visitor to stand behind the plate while "Roger Clemons" or another hurler serves up 90-mph-plus fastballs.

The museum, which is located at 800 West Main Street, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Adult admission is $4; seniors (age 60 and older), $3.50; children (ages 6 to 12), $3. Group prices are available.

For information, call (502) 588-7228; fax (502) 585-1179.

Clients can bridge the gap between America's favorite pastime and the sport of kings by next visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Located at 704 Central Ave., the Kentucky Derby Museum houses a large collection of racing artifacts and memorabilia that trace to the founding of this country.

Among the highlights is a 360-degree audiovisual presentation that surrounds the onlooker with the sights and sounds of the racetrack on Derby Day.

Admission includes a guided tour of the racetrack (weather permitting).

The facility is open year-round 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas and other strictly Louisvillian holidays such as Derby Day.

Admission ranges from $5 for adults to $2 for children. Group rates are available.

For information, call (502) 636-7097.

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