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A baseball is a ball used primarily in the sport of the same name, baseball. It is generally approximately 9 inches (23 cm) no more than 9 1/4 inches in circumference, and 5 ounces avoirdupois (142 g) in weight, though sometimes different-size balls may be used in children's leagues.  Construction varies. Generally the core of the ball is cork, rubber, or a mixture of the two, and is sometimes layered. Around that are various linear materials including yarn and twine, sometimes wool is used. A leather cover is put on, in two pieces, and stitched together using 108 stitches of waxed red cotton thread. Rolled stitching is flatter and creates less air-resistance. This is the type of stitching used for major league balls and is ideal for the game and everyday play. Official Major League balls sold by Rawlings are made to the exact MLB specifications (5 ounces, 108 stitches) and are stamped with the signature of Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig on each ball.
Cushioned cork cores were patented in the late 19th century by sports equipment manufacturer and former baseball star A. G. Spalding. In recent years, various synthetic materials have been used to create baseballs; however, they are generally considered lower quality, and are not used in the major leagues. Using different types of materials affects the performance of the baseball. Generally a tighter-wound baseball will jump off the bat faster, and go farther. Since the baseballs used today are wound tighter than in previous years, notably the dead ball era, people often say that the ball is "juiced". The height of the seams also affect how well a pitcher can pitch.
In the early years of the sport, only one ball was typically used in each game, unless it was too damaged to be usable; balls hit into the stands were retrieved by team employees in order to be put back in play, as is still done today in other sports. Over the course of a game, a typical ball would become discolored due to dirt, and often tobacco juice and other materials applied by players; damage would also occur, causing slight rips and seam bursts. However, after the 1920 death of batter Ray Chapman after being hit in the head by a pitch, perhaps due to his difficulty in seeing the ball during twilight, an effort was made to keep clean, undamaged balls in play.
Today, several dozen baseballs are used in a typical professional game, due to scratches, discoloration, and undesirable texture that can occur during the game. Spectators are now generally allowed, and even encouraged, to keep baseballs that are hit or tossed to them. (Fans are allowed—especially at Wrigley Field—to throw visitors' home run balls back onto the field. In fact, a home run ball is the only object a fan may throw on the field without penalty.) Balls hit out of the park for momentous occasions (record setting, or for personal reasons) are often requested to be returned by the fan who catches it, or donated freely by the fan. Usually the player will give the fan an autographed bat and/or other autographed items in exchange for the special ball.
There are several historic instances of fans catching or attempting to catch baseballs:
- The ball that Mark McGwire hit for his 70th home run of the 1998 baseball season, then setting a new record, was sold by a fan to Todd McFarlane for three million dollars.
- Larry Ellison famously retrieved both Barry Bonds's 660th and 661st home runs.
- Steve Bartman nearly interfered with a play while attempting to catch a foul ball, causing the Chicago Cubs not to get an out in "The Inning" during the 2003 NLCS.
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ The Major League Baseball rulebook has guidelines for the size, weight and construction of the baseball for use in the major leagues.
- "The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two stripes of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5 1/4 ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine nor more than 9 1/4 inches in circumference.