In 1912 the Pacific Coast League opted to replace the Spalding cork-centered baseball, which they used the previous season, with the Goldsmith ball which had a solid rubber core.
The decision sparked an advertising war between the two companies in West Coast newspapers.
The Goldsmith ads bragged:
“After severest tests, the Pacific Coast League, with many others all over the country, have officially adopted the Goldsmith baseball…The Goldsmith Guaranteed Baseball will be used in all Pacific Coast League games, beginning with this season. It is guaranteed for 18 innings against softening, ripping, losing shape or elasticity.”
Spalding countered with ads which said:
The Cork Center Ball is the only Ball recognized by the Official Baseball Rules and the only Ball that can be played with in the World Series games for the next twenty years. Do you realize this? Every professional base ball player, every professional base ball manager, every professional club owner should insist upon The Cork Center Ball. The Official Ball of the World Series.
“Of what value are players’ percentages to compare with the records of the National and American Leagues unless they play with The Cork Center Ball.”
In another version of the ad addressed directly to “Mr. Ball Player,” the Spalding Company asked:
”Don’t you want to compare your playing and the records of your team with the playing of men on National and American League teams, and how can you do so if you do not play with a Cork Center Ball? Your accurate throwing, your perfect stick work, your long throws, and above all that perfect confidence which all ball players need, all depend upon a standard ball and the real standard ball is the style used in the World Series games. The Spalding.”
Spalding even warned players in another ad:
“You are shutting the door to your further advancement if you have hopes of getting ahead in professional base ball if you play with anything but a Cork Center Ball.”
While the company’s battled, The (Portland) Oregonian suggested a more sinister reason for the switch during spring training:
“When the czars of the Pacific Coast League adopted a new official ball for a period of five tears at Los Angeles last winter, little did the younger generation dream of an impending disaster.
“The opening of the practice season, however, reveals a deep, dire plot to rob the corner-lot Ty Cobb in embryo of his unlawful spoils, the ‘dollar an’ two-bit’ spheres fouled over the fences and so seldom returned.
“Every ball put out by the new Cincinnati firm (Goldsmith) has the name of the home club indelibly stamped into the horsehide, along with the signature and stamp of approval of President A. T. Baum…This safeguard means that Coast League moguls will be able to identify every ball sneaked away by the crafty kids of the sand heaps.
“When one stops to consider that close to 1000 balls, or approximately $1200, went scampering away to the rendezvous of the juveniles last season in Portland alone, the effect of a crimp in the visible supply can readily be seen at a glimpse.
“Of course a mere Bertillonizing (a reference to the criminal identification system developed by Alphonse Bertillon) of the ball cannot absolutely stop the depredations, but with the penalty of a stiff fine and possible imprisonment hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles, the magnates believe the small youth will lay off the petty thievery from now on.”
The paper said Portland Beavers Manager Walter McCredie had received seven dozen balls, “and these are expected to last until the start of the season.”
There was no word on how many balls were recovered from young criminals as a result of the stamp.
At the end of the 1912 season The Oregonian said they had not:
“(H)eard any kicks on the Goldsmith ball, which is giving the old-line companies quite a scare all over the nation.”
There didn’t seem to be a significant impact on offense. Twenty players hit better than .290 in 1911; 24 did so in 1912. Buddy Ryan led the league with 23 home runs in 1911; Bert Coy led with 19 in 1912. Six players hit 10 more home runs in 1911; eight did so in 1912.
After the five-year contract with Goldsmith expired, the Reach Baseball, which had a cork center, became the official ball of the Pacific Coast League