Baseball is a living, breathing object that has changed over time. Despite its simple form, baseball is a precision-made product that has sparked fierce debate throughout its history. Even though baseballs haven’t changed much in terms of physical dimensions or raw materials over the last century, some observers have speculated that the balls have been “juiced up” to increase the output of crowd-pleasing home runs during periods of low attendance at major league baseball games. But baseball has evolved from a softball to one that is rounder, harder, and smaller. A handful of the raw materials have been replaced with more durable, resilient, and efficient alternatives.
A baseball is made up of three essential components:
- a cork coated with layers of rubber in the core or the ‘pill.’
- wool windings in the middle portion
- leather that covers the outside of the ball.
Apart from this, to meet Major League requirements, each baseball must weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces (141.75-148.83 grams) and measure between 9 and 9.25 inches (22.86-23.49 cm) in circumference.
Cowhide, rubber, cloth, and cork are just a few of the basic materials used in the manufacturing stage. A baseball’s leather exterior is composed of cowhide. The baseball’s shell was constructed of horsehide before 1974. Rawlings Sporting Goods Company is the largest manufacturer of baseballs, producing around 2.4 million per year. The raw materials are placed successively around a rubbery sphere about the size of a cherry. The rubber is moulded, the fabric is coiled, and the cowhide is sewed into position around the little spherical in three different ways.
The early days of baseball had a circular rubber core around the turn of the century. The baseballs materials were replaced in 1910 by a more lively cork-centred ball, which was superseded two decades later by a cushioned cork model that was even more robust. Since then, baseball has only seen one crucial change: the conversion from horsehide to cowhide covering in 1974 due to a lack of horses.
The making of baseball involves these significant process-
Stage 1- Moulding the rubber
Stage 2- Winding with wool Fabric
Stage 3- Sewing hide
At first, two black rubber shells are moulded into a rubberised cork; later on, these shells are sealed together by red rubber gaskets. After which, a layer of red rubber is set into the rubber or the so-called ‘pill’, which finally is mended together into a sphere weighing ⅞ ounce.
The following process involves applying a thin layer of cement to its surface. During the first winding process, this layer keeps the wool yarn in place on the pill.
The second stage uses a wool yarn to loop around the ball after a thin layer of red rubber is moulded to it, and a layer of cement is added. When a baseball is dissected, the wool yarn is wrapped so tightly that it seems to be a thread. There are three layers of yarn wound on the loom, which are-
- four-ply grey yarn (This layer is approx 121 yards)
- three-ply white yarn(This layer is an approx of 45 yards)
- three-ply grey yarn. (This layer is an approx of 150 yards)
The ball is then wrapped in a final layer of poly/cotton finishing yarn. This process is carefully done in a controlled environment to ensure a uniform surface for the baseball.
The baseball is then given a cowhide cover, made up of two figure-eight sections stapled to the ball and then stitched together, which is the last layer. Two figure-8 patterns are carved out of the cowhide. Each design is applied to half of the wound ball. The cowhide wraps are moistened to increase their flexibility before being stitched to the wound ball. The same glue used on the wound ball is also applied to the insides of the covers.
The two figure-8 coverings are stapled to the wrapped ball, then hand-sewn together with waxed red thread. Every baseball’s sewing technique involves 108 stitches. Hand-sewing a baseball takes about 13 to 14 minutes on average. The staples are removed after the coverings have been sewed together and the ball is inspected. After that, the ball is rolled for 15 seconds to even out any elevated stitches.
For the final process, the baseballs are weighed, measured, and assessed for appearance. Good baseballs have the manufacturer’s trademark, and league designation stamped on them.