A baseball is a ball used in the sport of the same name. The ball comprises a rubber or cork center wrapped in yarn and covered with white horsehide or cowhide. A regulation baseball is 9–9+1⁄4 inches (229–235 mm) in circumference (2+55⁄64–2+15⁄16 in. or 73–75 mm in diameter), with a mass of 5 to 5+1⁄4 oz. (142 to 149 g). A baseball is bound together by 108 hand-woven stitches through the cowhide leather.
The leather cover is commonly formed from two peanut-shaped pieces stitched together, typically with red-dyed thread. That stitching plays a significant role in the trajectory of a thrown baseball due to the drag caused by the interaction between the stitching and the air. Controlling the orientation of the stitches and the speed of the ball's rotation allows a pitcher to affect the behavior of the pitched ball in specific ways. Commonly employed pitches include the curveball, the slider, the two-seam fastball, the four-seam fastball, the sinker, the cutter and the changeup.
In the early, mid-1800s days of baseball, there was a great variety in the size, shape, weight, and manufacturing of baseballs. Early baseballs were made from a rubber core from old, melted shoes, wrapped in yarn and leather. Fish eyes were also used as cores in some places. Pitchers usually made their own balls, which were used throughout the game, softening and coming unraveled as the game went on. One of the more popular earlier ball designs was the "lemon peel ball," named after its distinct four lines of stitching design. Lemon peel balls were darker, smaller, and weighed less than other baseballs, prompting them to travel further and bounce higher, causing very high-scoring games.
In the mid-1850s, teams in New York met in attempt to standardize the baseball. They decided to regulate baseballs to weighing from 51⁄2–6 oz and having a circumference of 8–11 inches. There were still many variations of baseballs since they were completely handmade. Balls with more rubber and a tighter winding went further and faster (known as "live balls"), and balls with less rubber and a looser winding (known as "dead balls") did not travel as far or fast. This is generally true for all baseballs. Teams often used this knowledge to their advantage, as players from the team usually manufactured their own baseballs to use in games.
There is no agreement on who invented the commonplace figure-8 stitching on baseballs. Some historians say it was invented by Ellis Drake, a shoemaker's son, to make the cover stronger and more durable. Others say it was invented by Colonel William A. Cutler and sold to William Harwood in 1858. Harwood built the nation's first baseball factory in Natick, Massachusetts, and was the first to popularize and mass-produce baseballs with the figure-8 design.
In 1876, the National League (NL) was created, and standard rules and regulations were put in place. A.G. Spalding, a well-known baseball pitcher who made his own balls, convinced the NL to adopt his ball as the official baseball for the NL. It remained that way for a century.
In 1910, the cork-core ball was introduced. They outlasted rubber core baseballs; and for the first few years they were used, balls were hit farther and faster than rubber core balls. It eventually went back to normal.Pitchers adapted with the use of the spitball, which is now illegal, and an emphasis on changing the ball.
In 1920, a couple of important changes were made to baseballs. They began to be made using machine winders and a higher grade of yarn from Australia. Although there was no evidence that these balls impacted the game, offensive statistics rose throughout the 1920s, and players and fans alike believed the new balls helped batters hit the ball farther.
In 1925, Milton Reach patented his "cushion cork" center. It was a cork core surrounded by black rubber, then another layer of red rubber.
In 1934, The National League and American League came to a compromise and standardized the baseball. They agreed on a cushion cork center; two wrappings of yarn; a special rubber cement coating; two more wrappings of yarn; and, finally, a horsehide cover.
Baseballs have gone through only a few small changes since the compromise. During World War II, the United States banned the use of rubber for non war-related goods, including for baseballs. So in 1943, instead of using rubber, baseballs were made with rubber-like shells of balata (also used in golf balls), which is obtained from a particular type of tropical tree. Hitting declined significantly that year.
The introduction of synthetic rubber in 1944 resulted in baseballs' returning to normal.Offense would return to normal after the change back to the regular ball and return of players from active duty.
In 1974, baseballs covers were switched from horsehide to cowhide.
In 1976, MLB stopped using Spalding for manufacturing their baseballs and started using Rawlings.
A significant increase in the number of home runs since the start of the 2016 baseball season caused MLB officials to establish a committee that would examine the manufacturing process. In December 2019, MLB officials said that a lower stitching seam profile had most likely led to the increase in home runs, but also pledged to consider studying the issue. On February 5, 2021 MLB issued a memo that said that Rawlings had altered their manufacturing process to reduce the bounce in the balls and that after extensive testing, "... we are comfortable that these baseballs meet all of our performance specifications." The same memo also noted that more teams had applied for permission to use humidors to store their baseballs. As of 2020 only the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, and Seattle Mariners, were using the devices.
Cushioned wood cores were patented in the late 19th century by sports equipment manufacturer Spalding, the company founded by former baseball star A.G. Spalding. In recent years, various synthetic materials have been used to create baseballs; however, they are generally considered lower quality, stitched with two red thick thread, and are not used in the major leagues. Using different types of materials affects the performance of the baseball. Generally a tighter-wound baseball will leave the bat faster, and fly farther. Since the baseballs used today are wound tighter than in previous years, notably the dead-ball era that prevailed through 1920, people often say the ball is "juiced". The height of the seams also affects how well a pitcher can pitch. Generally, in Little League through college leagues, the seams are markedly higher than balls used in professional leagues.
In the early years of the sport, only one ball was typically used in each game, unless it was too damaged to be usable; balls hit into the stands were retrieved by team employees in order to be put back in play, as is still done today in most other sports.Over the course of a game, a typical ball would become discolored due to dirt, and often tobacco juice and other materials applied by players; damage would also occur, causing slight rips and seam bursts. This would lower the offense during the games giving pitchers an advantage. However, after the 1920 death of batter Ray Chapman after being hit in the head by a pitch, perhaps due to his difficulty in seeing the ball during twilight, an effort was made to replace dirty or worn baseballs.
In 1909, sports magnate and former player Alfred J. Reach patented the ivory centered "ivory nut" in Panama and suggested it might be even better in a baseball than cork. However, Philadelphia Athletics president Benjamin F. Shibe, who had invented and patentedthe cork centered ball, commented, "I look for the leagues to adopt an 'ivory nut' baseball just as soon as they adopt a ferro-concrete bat and a base studded with steel spikes." Both leagues adopted Shibe's cork-centered ball in 1910.
The official major league ball is made by Rawlings, which produces the stitched balls in Costa Rica. Attempts to automate the manufacturing process were never entirely successful, leading to the continued use of hand-made balls. The raw materials are imported from the United States, assembled into baseballs and shipped back.
Throughout the 20th Century, Major League Baseball used two technically identical but differently marked balls. The American League had "Official American League" and the American League's president's signature in blue ink, while National League baseballs had "Official National League" and the National League president's signature in black ink. Bob Feller stated that when he was a rookie in the 1930s, National League baseball laces were black, intertwined with red; American League baseball laces were blue and red. 5 and 5+1⁄4 ounces (142 and 149 g), and is 9 to 9+1⁄4 inches (229–235 mm) in circumference (2+7⁄8–3 in or 73–76 mm in diameter). There are 108 double stitches on a baseball, or 216 individual stitches.In 2000, Major League Baseball reorganized its structure to eliminate the position of league presidents, and switched to one ball specification for both leagues. Under the current rules, a major league baseball weighs between
Today, several dozen baseballs are used in a typical professional game, due to scratches, discoloration, and undesirable texture that can occur during the game. Balls hit out of the park for momentous occasions (record setting, or for personal reasons) are often requested to be returned by the fan who catches it, or donated freely by the fan. Usually, the player will give the fan an autographed bat and/or other autographed items in exchange for the special ball.
Balls used in the professional game are rubbed with a mud known as "rubbing mud", which is typically applied by the umpire before each game, and is intended to help the pitcher's grip.
There are different types of baseball used.
There are several historic instances of people catching, or attempting to catch, baseballs tied to MLB milestones:
Other famous baseballs:
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Baseball statistics play an important role in evaluating the progress of a player or team.
Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the offensive team is to hit the ball into the field of play, allowing its players to run the bases, having them advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.
The history of baseball in the United States dates to the 18th century, when boys and amateur enthusiasts played a baseball-like game by their own informal rules using homemade equipment. The popularity of the sport grew and amateur men's ball clubs were formed in the 1830–50s. Semi-professional baseball clubs followed in the 1860s, and the first professional leagues arrived in the post-American Civil War 1870s.
In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without first touching the ground, resulting in an automatic home run. There is also the "inside-the-park" home run where the batter reaches home safely while the baseball is in play on the field.
Mark David McGwire, nicknamed Big Mac, is an American former professional baseball first baseman. His Major League Baseball (MLB) playing career spanned from 1986 to 2001 while playing for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals, winning one World Series championship each, with Oakland as a player in 1989 and with St. Louis as a coach in 2011. One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, McGwire holds the major league career record for at bats per home run ratio (10.6), and is the former record holder for both home runs in a single season and home runs hit by a rookie.
The fastball is the most common type of pitch thrown by pitchers in baseball and softball. "Power pitchers," such as former American major leaguers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, rely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit, and have thrown fastballs at speeds of 95–105 miles per hour (153–169 km/h) (officially) and up to 108.1 miles per hour (174.0 km/h) (unofficially). Pitchers who throw more slowly can put movement on the ball, or throw it on the outside of home plate where batters can't easily reach it.
In baseball, a starting pitcher or starter is the first pitcher in the game for each team. A pitcher is credited with a game started if they throw the first pitch to the opponent's first batter of a game. Starting pitchers are expected to pitch for a significant portion of the game, although their ability to do this depends on many factors, including effectiveness, stamina, health, and strategy.
The rules of baseball differ slightly from league to league, but in general share the same basic game play.
In baseball, the dead-ball era was the period from around 1900 to the emergence of Babe Ruth as a power hitter in 1919. That year, Ruth hit a then-league record 29 home runs, a spectacular feat at that time. This era was characterized by low-scoring games and a lack of home runs. The lowest league run average in history was in 1908, when teams averaged only 3.4 runs per game. Teams played in spacious ball parks that limited hitting for power, and, compared to modern baseballs, the ball used then was "dead" both by design and from overuse. In addition, ball scuffing and adulteration by pitchers was not against the rules during this period.
The 1998 Major League Baseball home run chase was the race between first baseman Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, and right fielder Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that resulted in McGwire and Sosa breaking Roger Maris's long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs. McGwire broke Maris's record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66.
The 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 78th midseason exhibition between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 10, 2007, at AT&T Park, the home of the NL's San Francisco Giants. It marked the third time that the Giants hosted the All Star Game since moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season. The 1961 and 1984 All Star Games were played at the Giants former home Candlestick Park, and the fourth overall in the Bay Area, with the Giants bay area rivals the Oakland Athletics hosting once back in 1987, and the second straight held in an NL ballpark.
The 1998 Major League Baseball season ended with the New York Yankees sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series, after they had won a then AL record 114 regular season games. The Yankees finished with 125 wins for the season, which remains the MLB record.
This is an alphabetical list of selected unofficial and specialized terms, phrases, and other jargon used in baseball, along with their definitions, including illustrative examples for many entries.
The "juiced ball" theory suggests that the baseballs used in Major League Baseball (MLB) have been deliberately altered by the league in order to increase scoring. The theory first came to prominence in the 1990s to early 2000s, but the theory receded once it became clear that the more likely explanation for the increase in scoring during that time was an increase in steroid use, as documented in the Mitchell Report in 2007. The juiced ball theory made a resurgence in the late 2010s, as a noticeable uptick in offensive output, especially home runs, was observed.
John Witt is an American baseball collector. He claims to have caught over 5,000 baseballs at professional baseball games over the past 40 years. Witt is also an author, baseball columnist and actor.
The Major League Baseball Authentication Program, or MLB Authentication Program, is a program run by Major League Baseball Properties, the product licensing arm of Major League Baseball, to guarantee the authenticity of baseball merchandise and memorabilia. The centerpiece of the system is a tamper-resistant security tape (sticker) with an embedded hologram. Each sticker carries a unique alphanumeric code. The sticker is affixed to all game-used merchandise and memorabilia, while information about the item is entered into a computer database. Between 500,000 and 600,000 items are authenticated each season.
Cheating in baseball is a deliberate violation of the baseball rules or other behavior that is designed to gain an unfair advantage against an opponent. Forms of cheating include doctoring the baseball, doctoring baseball bats, electronic sign stealing, and the use of performance-enhancing substances. Other actions, such as fielders attempting to mislead baserunners about the location of the ball, are considered gamesmanship and are not in violation of the rules.