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By: X Bats

In 1860 the dimensions agreed upon during the yearly convention were changed and the new playing rules stated that the weight of the ball should be between five and three-fourths ounces and between nine and three-fourths to ten inches in circumference. The ball was still to be made of india-rubber, wrapped in yarn and covered in leather. The leather was still brown and the shade varied depending upon what leather was available to the craftsman. John Van Horn, second baseman for the Baltic Club of New York, in the 1850's, was the leading produce of baseballs in the early 1860's. Van Horn, who was a shoemaker, was located at 33 Second Avenue in New York and used rubber from old shoes to comprise the core of his baseballs. He used between 2 and 2½ ounces of rubber in baseball, which translated in to a "lively" ball and used sheepskin for the cover. He supplied the Knickerbocker Club and has been dubbed the "greatest ball maker of the 19th century."

The dimensions were changed again for the 1861 season. Both the weight and the circumference were reduced by ¼ of an inch and ¼ of ounce. Edward I. Horsman was known to produce baseballs of different degrees of "liveliness," from his shop at 124 South Sixth Street, Brooklyn, New York. He received his first big break when he provided the baseball for the Grand Silver Ball Match between the Atlantic Club (Brooklyn) and the Eckfords (Brooklyn) at the Union Skating and Base Ball Grounds in Brooklyn. The Eckfords defeated the 1861 Champion Atlantics, 8-3 on July 11, 1863. The Eckfords would claim the National Association of Base-Ball Players 1862 and 1863 Championship.

The two piece figure-eight stitch was patented in the early 1860's and in the middle 1860's the base balls began to be machine manufactured in larger cities. One of the largest sporting goods businesses was owned by James F. Masters at 51, 53 and 55 Court Street in Brooklyn, NY. Although his specialty was the manufacturing of baseball uniforms from head to toe, he may have been one of the first distributors of the various types of baseballs made during this time. Masters was out of business in the late 1870's when he could not compete with A.G. Spalding and Brothers Company, who had been "elected" to be the exclusive baseball supplier to the National League in 1878. In 1867, during the 11th annual convention of the National Association of Base-Ball Players, the dimensions of the base ball were changed again. The weight of the baseball could be between five and five and one-quarter ounces and the circumference could be between nine and one-quarter and nine and one-half inches. During the 1869 convention the slugging Athletic of Philadelphia Club vehemently objected the proposal for only 1½ ounces of rubber to be allowed inside the ball.

There has been evidence that the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869-70 used a two piece figure-eight stitched baseball during their historic base ball tour. The leather cover was a medium to dark brown and the stitches were tan or white.

When the first professional league was formed in 1871, the National Association of Base-Ball Players, the weight of the baseball was not changed but the circumference was reduced by ¼ inch. The ball was also now specified to have one ounce of rubber in its composition. The circumference and weight specifications would not change for any baseball used at the professional level during the rest of the 19th century.

Perhaps the first year that the baseball was exclusively a two-piece leather figure-eight stitch ball at the professional level was in 1872. The rules called for the rubber comprising the core to be vulcanized and in mould form and not composed of strip rubber. Strip rubber was more elastic than moulded rubber, which was denser and caused the ball to be less lively.

When the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed in 1876, the same dimensions that were agreed upon in 1872 were used except now the ball was to be composed of wollen yarn.

Albert Spalding's baseball became the official base ball of the National League in 1878 and was replaced in 1977 by Rawlings. The Spalding baseball held the same specifications and stitch color through the 19th century. Before adapting the Spalding ball the National League used the Mahn baseball from the Mahn Sporting Goods Company of Boston.

During the 1880 season, Harry Wright attempted to increase the relatively poor batting averages by introducing a new baseball. The ball that was used in the experimental game had a cork center "round with string, rubber and yarn." The ball produced a different sound when struck and proved to be too lively for the infielders and traveled far for the outfielders. The cork centered ball was not accepted for the 1881 season and the Spalding received further endorsement.

When the America Association of Base Ball Clubs began play in 1882 they also chose to use the L.H. Mahn baseball, out of Boston. In its second year of play the AA changed to the Reach baseball as the official baseball. It was made by former player and Sporting Goods owner A.J. Reach. These baseballs were manufactured using the Patent Plastic Composition developed by A.J. Reach and would be the official base ball until the fall of the American Association in 1891. Albert Spalding bought Reach Sporting Goods in 1883, procuring his monopoly on baseballs used by the two major leagues. When he realized that the American Association was somewhat stable, he began advertising the Reach ball in the 1885 Spalding Guide.

The Union Association played its only season in 1884 and chose to use the Wright & Ditson baseball designed and manufactured by legendary player George Wright. Spalding had purchased Wright & Ditson in 1883 as well.

The Player's National League of Base Ball Clubs used the Keefe & Becannon baseball. The ball was designed by Tim Keefe, who pitched for the New York Giants of the PL and Buck Becannon, who played 12 professional games over three seasons with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association and the New York Giants of the National League.



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