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  • Discussion on Baseballs through the years

    During the debate on "Who's the Greatest NL Player Ever?", a question has broken out on whether or not a new, livlier ball was introduced into baseball for the 1919 season.

    I feel the subject deserves a separate independent debate. We can also include whether or not another juicing occurred, or not, around 1930. That would be a separate, albeit related, question. We have discussed, debated these issues before, but I feel that it is an important enough issue to give it another round. This time, I will also include a poll, to survey the members in the house to see what ratio of us believes each version. Sound cool? Hope so.

    Let the Games begin!

    Bill Burgess
    64
    Yes, I believe a livlier ball was introduced into at least one league in 1919.
    71.88%
    46
    No, I do not believe that the ball was enlivened in 1919.
    28.13%
    18
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 07-09-2005, 02:19 PM.

  • #2
    Cubbie,

    If I understand your position correctly, you feel that the ball was enlivened in 1911, and that at no subsequent time, neither in 1919, 1920 or sometime around 1930, was there a tampering with the ball, by the manufacturers, The Reach Company. Do I understand your position accurately?

    You feel the changes in offense can be attributed to causes other than the changing of the ball itself? Am I understanding your position clearly? If not, please state your position so we can all debate it without distortions.

    Bill

    Comment


    • #3
      In 1909, sporting goods manufacturer A.J. Reach discovered that putting a tightly wrapped piece of cork in the center of a baseball made it more lively. The "Dead Ball Period" of baseball, which existed from the formation of the National League in 1876 until 1911 was a result of balls with almost no resiliance - they just fell dead when hit. At the turn of the century, Spalding had the contract to provide major league baseballs. Benjamin Shibe, a partner of A.J. Reach applied for and was awarded this patent in 1909. Shibe, for whom the Philadelphia Athletics stadium was originally named, also developed machinery which made possible the manufacture or standard baseballs. The cork center ball is believed to have been first used secretly in the 1910 World Series and was officially introduced in 1911. The .300 batting average rose from 8 in 1910 to 27 in 1911. This baseball heralded the homerun hitter.

      Also I believe there is a coffee table book about baseballs, I wonder what it says.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by [email protected]
        Cubbie,

        If I understand your position correctly, you feel that the ball was enlivened in 1911, and that at no subsequent time, neither in 1919, 1920 or sometime around 1930, was there a tampering with the ball, by the manufacturers, The Reach Company. Do I understand your position accurately?

        You feel the changes in offense can be attributed to causes other than the changing of the ball itself? Am I understanding your position clearly? If not, please state your position so we can all debate it without distortions.

        Bill

        No I never said at no subsequent time was the ball changed. What i said was the ball that would fuel the modern era and end deadball was put out in 1911. The 1930 ball was obviously and I believe rather publicly changed.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by cubbieinexile View Post
          No I never said at no subsequent time was the ball changed. What i said was the ball that would fuel the modern era and end deadball was put out in 1911. The 1930 ball was obviously and I believe rather publicly changed.
          OK. I am merely trying to ascertain your position without distortion, so that we may proceed to debate with clarity.

          You feel that the increase in offense prior to, let's say 1927, was attributed to causes other than the actual changing of the ball, in any way?

          Do I state your beliefs accurately in that area? I'm only trying to get it right here.

          Bill
          Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-19-2009, 01:44 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by [email protected]

            OK. I am merely trying to ascertain your position without distortion, so that we may proceed to debate with clarity.

            You feel that the increase in offense prior to, let's say 1927, was attributed to causes other than the actual changing of the ball, in any way?

            Do I state your beliefs accurately in that area? I'm only trying to get it right here.

            Bill

            The offense went up in the 20's because of the new ball, because pitchers were not allowed to "cheat", balls were replaced regularly, stadiums were more standard, and a pardigm shift in offensive strategy.

            All these things is why offenses in the 20's were higher then offenses in 1911 and 1912. But at its core the reason the offenses were high was because of the core of the baseball. If they had simply never changed the baseball and continued to use the type of baseball they did in say 1905 but did changed all other conditions the 20's would never look like it did. Sure offenses would go up but nothing close to what they did go too. Nor would somebody be hitting 50+ homers a year.

            Comment


            • #7
              I had also read that the ball was enlivened in 1911. And that the reasons that offense rose after 1920 had more tro do with the outlawing of trick pitchers and putting new balls in play at a greater frequency.

              I do think the ball was tamered with in 1930, which would have been a bad year for any type of experimentation.

              Comment


              • #8
                I recently read that due to shortages during the first World War, Baseballs were made of inferior substitute materials that resulted in a less lively ball. To compensate for this the winding machines were set to wrap the twine more tightly. When the war was over and the original materials were available again, the winding machines were intentionally not reset to their pre-war settings. It was a story in the "Armchair Book of Baseball" but I don't recall the author of this particular story and I don't know if it's historically accurate.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by wamby
                  I had also read that the ball was enlivened in 1911. And that the reasons that offense rose after 1920 had more tro do with the outlawing of trick pitchers and putting new balls in play at a greater frequency.

                  I do think the ball was tampered with in 1930, which would have been a bad year for any type of experimentation.

                  The ball was definitely changed in 1930 in the NL. Some sources say the ball was actually changed in mid season in 1929. There is no doubt the NL ball was changed in the 1930 season and then they returned to the "old" ball in 1931.

                  How do we know, because the NL owners admitted that they discussed it at the winter meeting after the 1929 season. I have the article that states this in front of me at this time, from the N.Y.Times

                  NL pitchers complained at the start of the 1930 season, the ball was harder to grip, the cover felt tighter and for sure the seams were lower than before.

                  The NL owners admitted, they used a thinner cover in the 1930 ball and lowered the seams, the pitchers were correct.

                  There was a sllight rise in some offensive stats in the AL in 1930 and the drop in the 1931 season was not that dramatic. Different story in the NL, a significant leap in 1930 and the bottom fell out in 1931 making the story about the NL going back to the "old" ball in 1931 believable.


                  ---National League---------Ba.----------Slugging-----HRs--------ERA
                  1928---------------------.281------------.397------610--------.399
                  1929---------------------.294------------.426------754--------.471
                  1930---------------------.303------------.448------892--------.497
                  1931---------------------.277------------.387------493--------.386

                  As I stated earlier some say the thinner cover, lower seam ball was snuck into the NL in mid season 1929 and that could be because there was a notable rise in 1929.

                  One look at 1930 compared to 1931 convinces me that the owners were being truthful when they say they returned to the "old' ball in 1931. There is no way an entire league could drop off that much without some change being made, in this case a return to the "old" ball.

                  That settles 1930 in the NL, no mystery the ball was made livelier with some external changes.
                  Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 07-09-2005, 07:21 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3
                    The ball was definitely changed in 1930 in the NL. Some sources say the ball was actually changed in mid season in 1929. There is no doubt the NL ball was changed in the 1930 season and then they returned to the "old" ball in 1931.
                    I knew that the statistics were skewed in NL for 1930, but I don't remember ever reading that the owners had admitted to having the ball changed.
                    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-06-2006, 08:47 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by zman
                      I recently read that due to shortages during the first World War, Baseballs were made of inferior substitute materials that resulted in a less lively ball. To compensate for this the winding machines were set to wrap the twine more tightly. When the war was over and the original materials were available again, the winding machines were intentionally not reset to their pre-war settings. It was a story in the "Armchair Book of Baseball" but I don't recall the author of this particular story and I don't know if it's historically accurate.
                      I waould guess that the same thing (material shortages) happened in WWII also leading to a deader ball, most likely in 1944 and 1945.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wamby
                        I knew that the statistics were skewed in NL for 1930, but I don't remember ever reading that the owners had admitted to having the ball changed.
                        The article did appear in the N.Y.Times, I did make a copy of that article. In it the owners had decided(after the 1930 season) that the new ball was to lively and went back to the old ball, raising the seams and using a thicker cover. In 1931 the NL came back to the real world, you can plainly see that by the drop, drastic drop in the league offense.
                        Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 07-09-2005, 09:17 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wamby
                          I waould guess that the same thing (material shortages) happened in WWII also leading to a deader ball, most likely in 1944 and 1945.
                          Also from the N.Y.Times archives. For a portion of the 1943 season, poorer quality synthetic material was used due to needs of the war effort. Offense began to drop and the idea was dropped, back to the original, the old ball, the livelier ball.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            In 1943 they used a balata cork instead of a rubber core. No home runs were hit in the first 11 games. The leagues search in all their closets and warehouses to find old rubber centered balls while balls with better quality rubber cement are rushed into production. But it wasn't until after the war that baseball got its normal ball back. During the war they used something called reclaimed rubber centers which apparently according to Bureau of Standards was just as bad as the balata ball.

                            Also here is what I found on the tighter wound balls after WWI.
                            In April 1917, the U.S. entered World War One. As with all wars, there is always a shortage of materials. When it came to baseball, this was no exception. Since the standard yarn that was used for baseball winding was now being put to use to help the "Dough Boys keep the world safe for democracy" Baseball manufacturers had no choice but to use an inferior, cheaper yarn for the standard National and American League spheres. It was found that the inferior yarn made the baseballs even more loosely wound than before.

                            To make up the difference, the machines that wound the baseballs were set so that the yarn would be wound tighter making up the difference. Here's where it starts to get interesting. The Great War ended on November 11th, 1918, but the flow of high quality raw materials back into the private sector was a slow process. High quality yarn was not made available for the 1919 season. When the baseballs made with the old, high quality yarn were finally manufactured again, there was a noticeable difference in the feel of the ball. The baseball winding machines continued to wind the yarn with the new, tighter settings. Why no one ever decided to go back to the old settings remains a mystery! But when the new "lively ball" first was shown at the end of the '19 season many pitchers became very nervous at the thought of serving up the new product!
                            Cy Young commented "When I had a chance to take a gander at that lively ball shortly before the '20 season began, my first thoughts were that I was sure glad I was retired."
                            As you can see the tighter wound balls were not put into play until 1920 (or if you want to be picky sometime near the end of the 1919 season), so looking at the 1919 AL as proof that the ball was enlivened holds no water. The offense in 1919 increased not because of some tighter wound ball but in all probability a shift in thinking while over in the NL they stuck to their ways for a couple of more years.


                            Everything I have read and found basically starts the liveball era with the rubber core in 1911 and from there it gets revved up a notch in 1920 when they outlaw trick pitches and then replace baseballs much more frequently and wind the ball up better. But again like i said in another post the core of the lively ball era is in the core of the baseball.


                            One other thing that I found interesting is that apparently in the old days the home team got to choose which kind of ball they wanted to use. If they believed they had the advantage on defense and pitching they would use a deadball where as if they believed they had the advantage on offense they could use a ball that was tighter wound. This apparently went on until 1910 when they introduced the rubber core ball. Anyone else ever hear of this.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Unofficial History Timetable

                              1901: All players, pitchers and position players alike, scuffed and blackened the Spalding ball. If the ball was hit into the stands, spectators would be thrown out of the park if they refuse to return the ball to play. The ball was used even after the cover tore completely off. Better defending position players are more valuable than better hitting players. Pitchers are the main attraction.
                              1911: With the Reach ball, offense increased. Hitters become the main attraction. Base runnning and daring is the philosophy. Runs can now be manufactured. Players still scuffed and blackened the ball. Pitchers routinely throw at batters and many batters take advantage of this and try to get hit. The umpires will rule them out for not attempting to move away from the pitch. The game was so popular and so profitable at this period. Its hard to judge the effect in comparison to other decades; the Federal League was introduced which somewhat diluted the competition. The profitability was lost which likely introduced gimmicks. A year later, WWI diluted the talent on the field.
                              1919: The war was over, the ball is said to be would better from improved manufacturing techniques developed during and immediately after the war. The hitting pilosophy was changed when Babe Ruth hit 29 HR for the Red Sox. He also started 15 games and completed 12.
                              1920: Babe hit 54 HR, he is drawing crowds like never before. New philosphy. The slugger is born. Ray Chapman is killed with a pitch to the skull.
                              1921: Balls are removed regularily for batters better vision and the newer balls retain their resiliancy. Pitchers throw at batters but, it is an unspoken rule not to throw at their head unless your team is hit in the head first. Hitters are searched for who have more power. Although runners are fast, they don't take the chance stealing. Manufacturing runs are reserved for the bottom half of the order. The slugger becomes the main attraction. They cut down on their swing to avoid a SO and BA are higher.
                              1929: The depression brings down attendance so, just as in 1911 and 1920, it is thought that increasing offense would improve attendance. The Rabbit ball has less texture and the skin is less absorbant. The pitches are straighter, it comes off the bat faster, and bounced on the field faster. BA climb to 1893 levels.
                              1931: The ball is changed again, likely not to what it was before 1929 but, remains relatively stable until 1961.
                              1952: The high strike is being phased out and not called as it once was. The batter now has another advantage.
                              1961: With expansion, pitching is diluted. Offense explodes to levels which concerns traditionalists. The Babe's HR record is broken. Teams score 100 runs more than the previous season.
                              1962: Pitching mounds were raised to give the pitcher more of an advantage
                              1969: Pitching mounds are reduced and expansion again dilutes pitching.
                              1987: The ball is again changed but, noone seems to know what has changed just that it is more lively.
                              1995: Baseball is barely regulated. Steroids chane baseall once again.
                              Last edited by HDH; 07-10-2005, 09:56 AM.
                              In the 1920's, Harry Heilmann led the AL with a .364 average. In addition, he averaged 220 hits, 45 doubles, 12 triples, 16 homers, 110 runs, and 130 RBI.

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