“The President of the League is the Supply Department”

31 Oct

Sixty to 75 balls are used on average in every Major League game (90 must be on hand)—and estimates are that between 115,000 and 160,000 balls are used each season.  How does this compare to the number of baseballs used during the 1890s?

In 1897 The Louisville Courier-Journal reported near the end of August that National League President Nick Young said league teams had used “400 dozen (4800) balls for the season,” up to that point.

Nick Young

Nick Young

Balls were stored at Young’s home in Washington D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.  He said:

“The public, perhaps, are unaware of the method employed by the League in circulating the balls among the twelve clubs.  The average patron of the game is under the impression that the balls are sent direct from the factory, but, as a matter of fact, the clubs are obliged to order their stock of spheres through me.  By the terms of the article of agreement and the contract with the manufacturer, the President of the League is the supply department.”

“I was debating today over my stock of balls in store at my home at Mount Pleasant, and decided that I had enough balls in stock to last the remainder of the season.  If am right in my guess, the twelve teams in the big league will use about 480 dozen (5760) balls this season, which makes an average of 40 dozen (480) per club.

“I have noticed that since the present pitching distance became a rule, more balls have been used than under the old rule, and I should infer that the five-foot impost placed on the pitcher four years ago has boomed the trade for Al Spalding, who supplies the league with balls…Of course I can’t account for the increase in foul flies that are sent over the stand, and that result in losing the balls, but the fact remains that more balls are used under the new rule.”

Young said he couldn’t explain why exactly more balls were being used because of the increased pitching distance:

“Perhaps the batsmen hit at the ball too soon or too late to connect for a safe hit, and their effort to make a safety resulted in a foul fly.”

Spalding advertisement from 1890s

Spalding advertisement from 1890s

Ball clubs would wire Young when they needed additional balls:

“Every ball is weighed before shipment to the club.  Each club stand the expense of the balls ordered by its manager or owner, and this season the League will have paid out about $6,000 for the sphere of horsehide, or an average of $500 per club, which is quite an item of expenditure for this necessary tool of the trade.”

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One Response to ““The President of the League is the Supply Department””

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  1. Origin Stories | Baseball History Daily - April 9, 2014

    […] of Spalding and Sullivan.  Commission members Abraham Mills, Morgan Bulkeley, Arthur Gorman, Nick Young, Al Reach, George Wright and John Edward Sullivan accepted the story of a mining engineer from […]

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