Evolution of Baseball

By: Jim Brown

The baseball is a ball which is nine inches in circumference and is 5 ounces heavy. The core of the ball may vary from cork or rubber or both. Surrounding the core would be either yam or twine or even wool.

Covering these materials would be leather in two separate pieces put together by 108 stitches of cotton thread, red in color and coated with wax. The official Major League balls which are sold by Rawlings, an American company who manufactures sports equipment and was founded in 1887, sells the exact size and weight of MLB version balls with a stamped signature of Commissioner Allan Selig on each ball.

A slightly different size is used on Little League matches to cater to the need of the players.

In the early years the manufacturers made cushioned cork cores to be the ball, later on some synthetic substitutes were tried in producing balls but were not used on major games since the weight of the ball and its properties affected much of the game play. Tighter wound balls fly or bounce from the bat faster. This are the type of balls which are used now compared to early versions and synthetic materials.

During the early years of the sport only one ball was used all throughout the game. If the ball goes up on the grandstand the employees would look for it and put it back into play.

It would be obvious that the ball will get damaged in the long run or be discolored due to dirt, sweat and some liquids that the players would apply on it. This practice went on until the tragic death of a batter named Ray Chapman on 1920, because he was hit by a baseball which he did not see coming in the dim twilight due to discoloration.

It was after this event happened that it was decided to keep clean and undamaged balls during the course of play to automatically replace soiled or damaged balls. Today, dozens of balls are kept as reserves during official games or minor games to maintain the ruling of keeping the balls in play undamaged and clean.

The ball's evolution made a major contribution to the evolution of the game itself. From the materials used to produce a ball to the idea of not limiting just one ball to a single play but to have reserves to promote safety all went well through the test of time.

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