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Worth, Inc.

This family-owned baseball and softball equipment company was founded by George Sharp Lannom Jr. in Tullahoma in 1912 as Lannom Manufacturing Company. It began as a producer of leather horse collars and harnesses. Recognizing the decline of animal-powered farming, Lannom developed a sporting goods line in order to utilize his tannery. He started with leather footballs in 1921 and added helmets, basketballs, and then baseballs and later softballs. Naming the line "Worth," Lannom created the slogan "Another Name for Value" and masterminded the company's growth for the next thirty years. From the very beginning he had organized Lannom Manufacturing Company around the ideas of vertical integration and a 40-percent profit rule. The first insured his control over all stages of production, from raw materials to distribution; the second occasionally endangered quality levels and long-range prospects. Yet Lannom's business sense and forceful personality drove the company forward. The Tullahoma enterprise survived what turned out to be a debilitating merger in 1923 with Morrison-Ricker of Grinnell, Iowa; once Lannom gained control of the Iowa plants, he resettled in Tennessee.

In 1927 Lannom discontinued football and basketball production to concentrate on baseballs and softballs. In 1933 he built a bigger factory and tannery in Tullahoma. Lannom Manufacturing employees survived the depression, and in 1939 they were producing 600 dozen baseballs daily. Lannom overcame an attempt at unionization by his employees and also foresaw the labor shortage that World War II would create. In response he opened a new factory in Puerto Rico in 1941. A second plant outside the United States began operations in Ontario in 1949.

Lannom died in 1953; two years later his son, G. Sharp Lannom III, took control of most of the Iowa-based parts of the holdings while the Tennessee-based Lannom Manufacturing Company and its Worth operations came under the leadership of Chuck Parish, Lannom's son-in-law. Over the next twenty years, Parish consolidated the holdings headquartered and directed from Tullahoma, increased his factories in Central America, and at his son's urging expanded the Worth line to include production of wood and then aluminum baseball and softball bats. Before Parish died in 1975, Worth held the majority of the U.S. aluminum bat market and had produced the first official Little League and NCAA Collegiate aluminum bats. At the same time he maintained the cottage industry of hand-sewing baseballs his father-in-law had organized decades earlier. That tradition, much reduced, continues still.

When John Parish took over his father's position, Worth entered its most dynamic phase to date. The company's current standard, "Performance Through Technology," indicates his interest in research and development of new materials. From Worth's first polycore softball has emerged the newest Super Dot series with its lamination process that essentially makes core and cover one unit. Worth also developed Reduced Injury Factor (RIF) softballs and baseballs in the 1980s. The Worth batting glove has been popular with NASCAR pit crews as well, and the company continues to experiment with the glove's material. Its aluminum alloy bats display a dual energy transfer system, what the company calls its trampoline and springboard effects. Worth's newest facility in Tullahoma opened in 1991, and it also maintains plants in other locations in North and Central America.

Suggested Reading

Neil A. Hamilton, "Tennessee Villager in a Modern World: G. S. Lannom, Jr., Baseball and Leather Entrepreneur," East Tennessee Historical Society's Publications 54 and 55 (1982 and 1983): 47-69.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010