How Many Stitches are on a Major League Baseball?
A total of 108 double stitches make up an official Major League Baseball, with the first and last stitch hidden on the ball. That means 216 total stitches cover the seams of the ball. Two figure-8 patterns of cowhide covering pieces of material are sewn together before passing the ball into a rolling machine to level out the stitches. The actual stitches use a waxy red thread, which is now typical for every ball in the MLB today.
Why are Baseball Stitches Red?
The red stitches on a baseball help hitters pick up the spin from a pitcher’s throw, but those stitches were not always red. Initially, MLB baseballs in the early 1900s had black and red laces in the National League. In the American League, during that same time, balls had red and blue laces. It was not until 1934 when professional baseballs had a consistent red stitch for every ball.
What are the Stitches on a Baseball Called?
The stitches on a Major League Baseball are known as virgules. Baseballs are hand-sewn, and there are a total of 216 stitches on a ball. Each stitch is double stitched, and the first and last stitch is hidden.
What is the Purpose of Stitches on a Baseball?
The purpose of having stitches on a baseball helps pitchers throw different pitches to hitters. By gripping the ball differently on or across the seams, they can change their pitch trajectory. The spin of the ball against the air can cause a pitch to break in a specific way, or drop as it comes to a batter. Some pitches that pitchers can throw by gripping the ball differently from one another include curveballs, sinkers, splitters, and sliders.
Who is the Official Baseball Manufacture of the MLB?
The official baseball manufacturer of Major League Baseball is Rawlings Sporting Goods. Rawlings Sporting Goods, out in Costa Rica, holds the exclusive rights to manufacture baseballs for professional baseball games. While different ball materials come to the manufacturing plant worldwide, all stitching and assembly take place in Costa Rica.
What is a Baseball Made Out Of?
For a baseball, there are three primary parts of a ball, including the core, midsection with poly/cotton, and exterior. First is the rubber core part of a ball, which is is a cushioned cork center with a red rubber covering the core. Second is the midsection of the ball, which has two figure-8 patterns from cowhide leather, which covers the entire center. Third, you have the exterior of the ball, which is the stitching process with the red stitches.
Hand stitching takes about twenty minutes to complete from start to finish. Most baseballs use hand sewing instead of a machine due to the precision that a hand can achieve. Once the stitching is complete, the ball goes through a rolling machine to remove any soft spots or irregularities on the ball.
How Much Does a Baseball Weigh?
The average weight of an MLB ball ranges from 5 to 5.25 ounces. The reason for the range of weights pertains to different materials making up the ball. For little leagues, you will find the ball weighing about 4 to 5 ounces.
A Brief History of Baseballs
In the 1800s, you had baseballs vary with size, weight, and shape from several manufacturers. Baseball pitchers would create their balls during the early days, known as lemon peel balls. The term “lemon peel balls” was due to their bumpy and rough exterior appearance and varying sizes. It was not until 1876 when there was a one size fits all baseball for all players to have. Up until 1974, baseballs were made of horsehide until transitioning to cowhide.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Boston Red Sox pitcher, A.G. Spalding, persuaded the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs to incorporate his balls into the games. Overtime, A.G. Spalding became the official baseball that was part of the game until 1976. In 1976, the MLB went from Spalding to Rawlings Sporting Goods to manufacture balls. While operations at Rawlings takes place in Costa Rica, the balls head to the United States of America for games.
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Major League Baseball has unique balls to commemorate special occasions during the season. Some particular circumstances include the Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, World Series, and any other notable event. To make the ball stand out for that occasion, you will see a stamp somewhere on the baseball to signify the event. Most of the marks live on the sweet spot of the baseball. Other times you will see different color stitching for All-Star games as well.
How often are Baseballs Replaced During a Game
According to a report by Fox Sports in 2012, the average baseball sees about two pitches of life during a game. That means over one hundred baseballs are part of a professional match each day. So you might wonder why so many balls are necessary for a ball game.
Foul balls or home runs entering the stands during a ballgame don’t come back, so that increases the number of balls per game. Another reason for the short life span of the ball is if a ball becomes dirty during the game. A pitcher throwing the ball into the dirt is reviewable by the umpire to see if it should still be in play. It is the umpire’s decision if the ball can still be part of the next at-bat, but most of the time, they throw it away. A baseball that leaves the game for any reason will not come back during play.
Another reason for many baseballs in a match is for the safety of players and fans. Back in 1920, in a game at the Polo Grounds, Ray Chapman was hit in the head with a baseball while batting. Shortly after leaving the game with the head injury, he passed away. Back in 1920, you only had a handful of MLB baseballs per game regardless of how dirty the ball would get. As games enter later innings, you had baseballs that were difficult to see due to being dirty. By swapping out baseballs frequently during games today, you give players and fans a better view of a ball coming their way.
Famous Baseballs Sold Via Auctions
Throughout the history of MLB, you will find plenty of famous baseballs over the years for fans to enjoy. Some great baseballs include ones from prominent players like Babe Ruth, while others belong to fans interacting with the ball during games. Below is a list of some of the most famous baseball ins the game.
- Mark McGwire 70th home run ball during the 1998 season went for $3.2 million during an auction
- A Babe Ruth 1933 All-Star Game Home Run Ball sold in sale for $805,000.
- Barry Bonds 756th home run to become the all-time home run leader went for over $750,000 via an auction.
- Barry Bonds 73rd home run in the 2001 season to become the single-season home run record went for $517,500.
- Hank Aaron’s 755th Home Run Ball sold for over $650,000.
- Bill Buckner’s baseball that went between his legs during the 1986 World Series sold for $418,250.
- A signed baseball by Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe in 1961 went for $191,200 at an auction
- Steve Bartman’s interference of a foul ball during the 2003 NLC went for $113,824 during a sale.
- Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was caught by a Yankees fan who did not want any reward for it but gave it back to the Yankees. In return, the New York Yankees gave the fan $70,000 worth in Yankees memorabilia. The fan also met Derek Jeter and some of the Yankees staff as well via his generous gift.
Throughout this post, we went over how many stitches are on a baseball, why the stitches are red, who makes the baseball, and more. Hands mainly do baseball stitching, but then later move to a machine to smooth out any irregularities. The purpose of having stiches on a ball allow pitches to change the trajectory of their pitch to a batter as well. Next time you catch a baseball in the stands, take a moment to look at each red stitching, and notice how much detail is part of that design.