A major league baseball (MLB) has 108 double stitches. Thus, the total number of single stitches is 216 in an official league baseball. The process of manufacturing a baseball entails several stages to get the perfect and uniform shape. Many baseball fans sometimes wonder, how many stitches are on a baseball? How a baseball is made? In this article, I am going to answer all these questions.
What Is Inside Of A Baseball?
There are three major parts of baseball. Manufacturing a baseball requires both manual and mechanical actions. Below are the components if we dissect a baseball.
- The core – consisting of rubber and cork pill
- The mid-layer – Wool and cotton winding
- Outer layer – cowhide
The pill of the baseball is spherical with a diameter of around 2 centimeters. The manufacturers make the pill with rubber and cork. The center of the pill consists of a cork. Also, there are two different layers of rubber around the cork. The color of the outer layer of the pill is red. Before winding threads on the pill, the workers at the factory pour adhesive on it so that the threads stick to pills properly.
The middle layer of the baseball has windings of wool and cotton. The manufacturers do the windings by rolling machines in different stages. The rolling machine winds with yarns in the below steps.
- A 4 ply gray wool yarn is the first winding loop.
- 3 ply white wool yarn is the second layer of winding.
- 3 ply gray wool yarn is the third layer of winding.
- Poly-wool blend makes the outermost layer.
Different layers of yarn give the baseball resilience. Therefore, the ball gets back to shape even if the batters hit it hard. We call the wound pill the center. While the winding is under process, a computer continuously weighs the ball to maintain the standard weight of each part of the ball. The factory workers add adhesive to the center before they put the cowhide leather on it.
Exterior Of A Baseball And The Stitches Of A Baseball
The exterior of the baseball is surrounded by two pieces of cowhide leather. Each of the pieces looks like the numeric 8 and it covers half of the surface area of the baseball. The workers attach each of the coverings by hand sewing. Baseball manufacturers avoid machine sewing or stapling to ensure the evenness of the balls. The worker dip the cowhides into a solution before the sewing process. It gives the hides smoothness which is important during hand sewing.
The workers use 88 inches of waxed red threads to sew the balls with cowhide. The required number of double stitches to sew the pieces of hides is 216. The workers keep the red stretches at a suitable temperature to maintain the MLB standard.
History Of Baseball Manufacturing & Baseball Stitching
1800s to 1900s
During the mid-1800s, baseballs were not uniform in shape and size. At that time, the manufacturers produced the baseballs from rubber core. They wrapped the core with two different layers made of yarn and leather. The baseball pitchers used to produce their own baseballs.
In the mid-1850s, there was an attempt to standardize baseballs. A baseball ball with more rubber and tighter winding was faster and traveled far away. On the other hand, a ball with less rubber and loose winding was called a ‘dead ball’. A dead ball did not travel a far way and it was slower. As the teams manufactured their own baseball, they often manipulated the game by taking this advantage. Therefore, it was decided that the weight of the ball would be 5.5 to 6 oz with a circumference ranging from 8 to 11 inches.
The year of formation of the National League (NL) is 1876. It adopted the standard of A.G Spalding, a baseball pitcher who used to manufacture his own baseball. NL continued this standard for baseball for around a century.
1900s to Present
In 1910, the manufacturers introduced the cork core that replaced the rubber core. The cork core balls were faster than rubber core balls. But the players gradually adopted it and it became normal.
In 1920, machine winding was introduced for the first time. The manufacturers imported a higher grade of yarn from Australia. Players and fans reported that baseball produced by this mechanical way was faster than before and helped the batter hit the ball further.
In 1934, National League and American League came to a consensus on the standard of baseball manufacturing. According to that standard, the manufacturers should make the core of the ball with cushion cork. Then there would be two layers of yarn wrapping. After that, another layer of rubber and two layers of yarn wrapping. Finally, the workers would make the outer layer by horsehide. Also, the baseball stitching standard was established.
In 1943, United States banned the usage of natural rubber for non-war purposes. Therefore, the manufacturers started using ‘balata’. It was a rubber-like substance that was extracted from a kind of tropical tree.
Just after one year, in 1944, synthetic rubber was invented. The manufacturers started using synthetic rubber cores instead of batata. It was a sigh of relief for the manufacturers as the ball made of balata was not up to the mark.
From 1974, baseball manufacturers started making the covers with cowhide instead of horsehide. Right after a couple of years, MLB switched their official baseball manufacturer to Rawlings.
Why Are The Baseballs Replaced During An MLB match?
The umpires and the players replace an average of 100 baseballs during an MLB match. Below are the three instances of why they replace the ball.
- Foul ball: when the batter hits the ball in the stands or the bat tips the ball off.
- In contact with dirt: if the ball gets scratched with in-field dirt or it gets discolored, then it can be replaced. The distortion of the ball changes the usual direction of the ball and creates a distraction for the batter.
- Umpire’s decision: the umpire can decide to change the ball when he finds the ball gets distorted for any reason.
When the ball comes in contact with in-field dirt or scratches, the trajectory of the ball changes. Thus, it creates unusual movement in the air. Therefore, a replacement becomes necessary.
Another reason for the frequent replacement of baseball is the discoloration of the ball over time. Sometimes the ball becomes difficult to see because of the dirt and discoloration. Back in 1920, a baseball player was hit in the head and died. Therefore, in recent times, the frequent swapping of the ball ensures the safety of the player and the fans by ensuring better visibility.
Why Are The Baseball Stitches Red?
There are a lot of guesses regarding the answer to this question. To find out the right answer let’s go back to the history of baseball stitching. In the 1900s, the colors of stitching in the American League and National League were different. American League used red and blue stitches while National League used black and red.
In 1934, MLB declared the baseball stitching standard. As per the league-wide standard, the color of the 108 double stitches was red. Red is the most visible color. Therefore, after the declaration of the baseball stitching standard, everyone accepted it. Similarly, the color of the glove of the pitcher should not be white as the visibility of white is the least. It ensured that the batter could see the approaching pitches conveniently.
Official Major League Baseball Manufacturer
Rawlings is the official baseball manufacturer of MLB. The company started supplying baseball to the American League and National league in 1977 and continued till 1999. It manufactured the balls as per the separate baseball stitching standards of the leagues. From 2000, Rawlings started manufacturing a single baseball for all leagues as the NL and AL agreed to a single standard for the baseball.
Rawlings sporting goods are of superior quality. Many professional baseball clubs acclaim their sports products. Before Rawlings, Spalding was the supplier of baseball for the major leagues for about a hundred years.
We determine the number of the stitches on a baseball by the size, shape of the ball, and pattern of the cowhide. All these factors contribute to the number of stitches required to attach the two pieces of cowhide. As the manufacturers are covering the ball with two different pieces of hides, it requires double stitching. Therefore, a total of 216 single stitches are there.
Fun fact softball is different from baseball since they have 88-96 stitches.
All major league baseballs are hand-stitched. The reason for hand stitching is that machine-stitched baseballs can not maintain the league standard. Therefore, the manufacturers carry out the process in manual stitching using waxed red thread. It takes almost 15 minutes to complete the stitching of a single baseball.
The pattern of baseball stitching is call figure 8. People call it this way because of the numeric 8-like shape of the cowhides that the manufacturers use as the cover.
The manufacturers make the outer surface of the baseball with cowhide. It has two different figure-8 shaped hides that the workers attach in different stages. Before stitching the hides, the workers give a temporary stapling. There is another purpose for the stitches of a baseball. The stitches help the pitchers pitch the balls in different trajectories. Thus it creates variation by creating spin on the air. Stitches are the reason why the pitchers can grip the ball differently and create variation in the delivery such as sinker, curveball, slider, and so on.