The History of the Baseball

image: kenny janosick

image: kenny janosick

In the 1830s and 40s the first baseballs were created by hand-winding yarn or string around nuts, rocks, bullets or even a sturgeon’s eyeball. The orb would then be covered with a single slab of brown leather or sheepskin and hand-sewn with a “lemon peel” stitch, forming a distinctive X-pattern. There was no standard size or weight. In 1854, the three professional New York teams at the time met and designated a specific weight and circumference, though it still underwent numerous changes throughout the 1860s.

Related Content

Stony Brook Baseball Team
Sharing Shea
The Ultimate Baseball Experience

 Finally, in 1872 the official measurements became 5oz and 9 inches in circumference, which remains the standard today. At that point, it was also determined that the yarn or string must stretch no more than a mile long. The core (called the pill) is a cork center surrounded by India rubber, the vulcanized latex of tropical plants. The now white aluminum-tanned leather sheath is still hand-sewn, except in the trademark figure-eight pattern. In order to pass muster, a ball must survive MLB’s officially sanctioned testing procedures: being shot from an air cannon at 85 feet-per-second, retaining roundness after 200 hits with 65 pounds of force and not distorting after being squeezed between two anvils.