America’s pastime is and has been governed by a plethora of rules both written and unwritten for over a century, but when it comes to the ball that is thrown to start every single game, Major League Baseball has installed a little leeway.
A Major League Baseball qualified baseball has to weigh between five ounces and five and a quarter ounces.
Four Major Baseball Eras
The Dead Ball Era
There have been four big eras that baseball has been broken into when discussing the changes to the ball.
First, there is the “dead ball era,” where pitchers made the balls by hand so they always favored the defensive team.
This era was dominated by very low scoring games and very few home runs. When the pitcher gets to make a unique ball for their starts, what else would you expect!
The Live Ball Era
Then you have the “live Ball era,” where the American and National Leagues, once very different and run very differently and independently from one another, standardized the processes that go into making the baseball.
Offense went up as dirty baseballs and those that lost their toughness were removed from play.
The ball in terms of size was not that different from the one used today as it varied from 5 ounces to five and one-eighths ounce.
World War II Cork Ball
During the Second World War there was another era in baseball, and that era’s ball was largely constructed of cork as rubber was used for war materials as the country joined the Allied forces in defeating Hitler and the rise of fascism across the globe.
Following the end of the war effort, rubber was made more available to civilians and private sector organizations like pro baseball and the game was able to continue to perfect the ball going into the modern era.
It is no surprise that removing the rubber because of the war effort, that game swung back radically to the defense and the pitchers.
This ball much more resembled the early balls associated with the “dead-ball era,” and the reintegration of rubber in the mid-1940’s reestablished balance in-game and gave the hitters a better chance.
Of course, players returning from serving their country in the war effort helped the cause as well.
Modern Day Baseball
Since the end of World War II, Major League Baseball has used an identical ball that is created through a unique process that is dominated by both machines and by hand to ensure each baseball is virtually identical and indistinguishable from one another.
By and large, the recipe of a baseball has been roughly the same since the beginning of the “Live Ball Era” in the 1930s.
While the exact makeup has gone under some alterations throughout the course of time, the recipe has stayed similar enough where the pre-World War II ball weighed between five and five and one-eighths ounce, today’s ball can weigh up to five and a quarter ounce.
The First Steps in Creating the Ball
To get the five or so ounces, baseballs start off with a cork core, which contains a small amount of rubber. Next, two layers of rubber are added to the core which is black and red respectively.
It is at this point when the yarn is wound onto the mixture through a revolving machine in a climate and temperature-controlled room so that the rubber does not expand or sweat and change or alter the complexion of the ball.
When the several different versions of yarn are added to the baseball the ball weighs around 4 ounces total. The yarn is broken down by color and length. The first batch is 121 yards of gray wool. Then 45 yards of white wool is added to the ball mixture. Then 150 yards of fine white cotton is added to the mixture.
Then you add the horsehide, which is comprised of two pieces of material, which is then rubber cemented to the yarn and rubber base of the ball.
Finally, bright red stitches, always double stitches which amount to precisely 108 stitches, are added to the ball, and this finished copy is always around five to five and a quarter ounces.
The official manufacturer of Major League Baseball baseballs is Rawlings, which is now owned and operated by the pro sports league.
Then once it dries, pick it up and start tossing it around!