An oft-told baseball story is that sometime around 1920, major league executives acted in concert with baseball manufacturers to "liven up" the ball. Their supposed aim was to increase flagging attendance in the wake of the Black Sox scandal. With this new ball, Babe ruth slammed 54 then 59 home runs, shattering the major league record, and for the rest of the decade, batters went wild and, more importantly, attendance soared.
It's almost impossible to find a baseball history book that does not tell this story as if it were undisputed truth. There's only one thing wrong: It's just not true!
No writer who espouses this theory has any evidence to prove it. That's because the ball used from 1920 to 1926 was not in any substantial way different from that used from 1911from 1919. The Reach Company, which manufactured balls for both leagues (although Spalding put its name on the NL's balls), did use a higher-quality yarn after World War I, but it had little, if anything, to do with the inflated averages; and even if it did have an effect, it was not done intentionally to fatten batting averages and boost attendance.
This "rabbit ball" gets blamed simply based on the fact that offensive totals increased. But that's like accusing somebody of murder when the only evidence you have is the dead body.
What proof is there that no lively ball was introduced? A lot more than the proof that a lively ball was introduced. Throughout the 1920s, journalists and league offices launched any number of investigations into the alleged "rabbit ball" theories, and all of them came to the same conclusion: that the balls used after 1920 had the same weight and size and bounce and used the same materials (except for the yarn, which didn't make much of a difference) as the ball that had been used in the past decade.
In addition, the manufacturer and league officials gave sworn depositions to that effect. Much-respected NL president John Heydler said, "At no time have the club owners ordered the manufacturer to make the ball livelier. The only stipulation the club owners have made about the ball is that it be the very best that could be made."
The Reach Baseball Guide ran a full-page ad announcing, "We never experiment with our patrons. There has been no change in the construction of the CORK CENTER BALL since we introduced it in 1910." And the United States Bureau of Standards conducted extensive tests that came to the same conclusion.