The baseball is the centerpiece of America's greatest pass-time, but where how did they get to where they are now? Well, they sure didn't start this way so let's get into the evolution of the baseball.
When you look at a modern baseball, they're always the same size, shape, and weight. In days past, it wasn't always like this. Before baseballhad become a standardized professional sport, pitchers used to manufacture their baseballs. Each ball was different weights, sizes, and shapes, and some were more or less rigid than others. I'm sure it is easy to see why this would be a problem. Without standardization, there would be no way to practice hitting or pitching effectively.
In the past, it was accepted that the ball would have a leather cover strung together. While this was the norm of the time, not all balls had cores, or fillings, to give the ball rigidity, and even if they did, these cores would be made of all sorts of things, generally of yarn or string. It makes more and more sense the more we look at the beginning of homemade balls and how there may have been a drive to create a consistent ball.
Once professional baseball had become a norm, there was a genuine drive to develop a standard baseball. While their initial solution was not the best or the last iteration, it did create a better level of play all around; it just needed some improvement. This first genuine attempt at making a standardized ball kept that leather strung together cover, with a core made of rubber, then hand wrapped in string, before the leather cover was strung up around it. This made for a better ball than those DIY balls from the beginning, but there was still much to improve.
After some time, there was another push to increase the ball; in the early 1910s, the ball changed again for major league play. These new balls now had a cork center covered in a thin layer of rubber. Cork was more resilient then, and the cork also created more string and bounce when being hit. This new evolution increased hitting for players significantly.
About ten years later, in the 1920s, some of the most significant changes centered around the ball and its involvement in the game. Now the balls were being mechanically wrapped in high-quality yarn, allowing for more uniformity; At the same time, there was no hard evidence at the time this affected the ball's performance, but many people believed it did.
In the 1920s, there was a push to make the ball have more spring and bounce; this made for a more entertaining game, though they may have overdone it. There was an incredible uptick in home runs. This would end when the 1930s came though; the two prominent leagues, the National and American Leagues, split ideologies. The National League decided they would deaden the balls a bit and the American League wanted to keep the action.
A World War
Ultimately, it didn't matter what each league decided to do. A few short years later, a global conflict would drastically change the game's trajectory (and the ball). WWII devastated many aspects of life during and after the period in which it occurred. One of the effects that happened to baseball was the ball itself. There was a rubber shortage due to the war, and now balls were losing their springing and bounce.
The Modern Ball
After this shortage, and the war, in 1945, the ball became as we know it today. Modern balls are assembled from cork, covered with a thin layer of rubber still, then wrapped in wool yarn—held together by one hundred eight stitches of red waxed cotton thread in white horsehide or cowhide leather. There are also circumference and weight stipulations and a "bounce" test that matches rebound speeds using a wall made of the same wood as bats.
There have been many changes to the construction of the ball throughout the years, but once the pro leagues came about, there was more of a push to standardize the ball to what we have today. Though there were some hiccups and different opinions, the ball has a fascinating history.