“A Great deal of Ingenuity is required in Making a Baseball”

25 Apr

In 1883, The New York Journal told readers about the business of making baseballs

“A reporter of this paper called upon Peck & Snyder (the New York-based sporting goods company) for information as to the extent of the trade and the amount of money invested in the business during the season.”

The paper concluded that “fully 5,000,000 baseballs would be manufactured” that year in the United States.

The representative of the company told the paper:

“About $12 per dozen for good balls; some are to be had for less, but these are the balls used by professional players…A great deal of ingenuity is required in making a baseball, and a great deal of science has got to be brought into play to make them perfect.

“In the center is a fine round piece of Para gum, which is covered by fine stocking yarn.  This is first stretched by machinery to its tension.  Then it is wound by hand so tight as to resemble a solid piece of material.  The winding is done by single strands at a time, which makes it compact.  A round white yarn is then put in and the whole covered with a plastic rubber cement.  When this becomes hard it preserves the spherical form of the ball and prevents the inside from shifting when the ball is struck by the bat.  More yarn is put over this cement and finally, the cover is added.  The covering is generally of a thin horsehide, as cow or goat skin becomes wrinkled and wears loose after a little knocking about. The sewing is done by hand, catgut being used instead of thread.”

Peck & Snyder "New" Professional Dead Ball, 1876

Peck & Snyder “New” Professional Dead Ball, 1876

After describing the composition of the ball, he explained the manufacturing process:

“Before the ball is completed it has to go through many hands, as no one man makes it from beginning to the end.  One does the winding; then another fits the cover over it, but few become proficient in the art of sewing on the cover.”

The process was time-consuming.  The representative of Peck & Snyder said:

“A dozen good workmen ought to be able to turn out twenty-five dozen balls in a day, and for this they get good wages.”

A circa 1877 advertisement.

A circa 1877 advertisement.

He also said his company’s process was superior to their competitors because of the materials they :

“Some of the manufacturers put carpet listing in the balls (rather than yarn), but this can be easily detected when the batting begins.  This is only done in cheap balls, such as used by the boys.  These are made in cups which revolve by fast-moving machinery. The insides are made of scraps of leather and rubber; then carpet listing is woven around the ball. It takes about ten minutes to turn out one of those balls complete.”

As for the amount of money spent on baseball equipment in 1883, the  company told The Journal:

“You may safely state that fully $5,000,000 will be spent on balls alone.  Then there is a large amount of money spent in bats, belts, hats and in fact for general outfit of baseball players… (overall) $10,000,000 is invested in baseball paraphernalia.”

Peck and Snyder was sold to A.G. Spalding and Bros. in 1894.

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