LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A museum dedicated to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat is taking a swing at pop culture with an exhibit that features TV and movie memorabilia from decades past.
Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker are sharing space with baseball heroes in the summer-long exhibit.
“We really wanted it to feel like you were walking in to an amazing comic book, or someone’s dream bedroom from when they were a child,” said Anne Jewell, executive director of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
The Louisville Slugger bat and equipment business was sold to Wilson Sporting Goods earlier this year, but the museum remains in the hands of the family who founded the company more than 130 years ago.
The museum, with its iconic 120-foot Louisville Slugger bat welcoming guests, hit four million visitors last year. Jewell said the new exhibit offers something beyond baseball history. Two years ago, an exhibit of Lego sculptures at the museum had a successful run.
“We have really learned over the years that when we can do special exhibits that can sort of broaden the interpretation of baseball or that have appeal beyond just the ball field, it does draw in people who might not typically come to visit us.”
The “Homeruns to Hollywood” exhibit is designed around Topps baseball and pop culture cards of decades past, including card sets that were released with the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” films of the 1970s and ’80s.
Many of the items come from New Jersey collector John Azarian, including an original Batman suit from the goofy 1960s show. Azarian has had the suit for 25 years but has never put it on display.
“These shows were a part of my childhood, so they’re very emotional and nostalgic for me,” he said from his home in northern New Jersey.
He bought the Batman costume at an auction and remembers the day it arrived in the mail.
“I was just like a kid at Christmas opening my most favorite gift, you know, digging through the tissue paper, unwrapping and just pulling all the pieces together,” he said. He declined to say how much he paid for the suit, cape and mask worn by Adam West on the Hollywood set of the show that often featured absurd predicaments for the dark knight and his sidekick, Robin, to wiggle their way out of. Azarian’s Superman costume from the Christopher Reeve film and a prop light saber from Star Wars are also part of the exhibit.
Visitors on a recent day were filing into the exhibit after doing a tour of the factory, where the wooden bats are carved, sanded and stamped with the iconic Louisville Slugger seal.
Paul Vandyck was surprised how some of the items looked up close, compared to his memories of them on TV or the big screen.
“You’re talking about some really old stuff, and it all kind of shows its age and a sign of wear,” said Paul Vandyck, who was visiting the museum from Green Bay, Wisconsin, with his family. “But in the case of the Batman stuff, that was campy when it was there, it’s campier now, because it’s just pajamas.”
The exhibit runs through October and is included with a regular admission ticket to the museum. .