As the Texas Rangers fight the mountain Francisco Giants in the 2010 civilization Series, the 106th rate of the most American the championship series, we"re acquisition a step ago here ~ above the technology Channel. This isn"t the location for cheer for one team or the other, but it is a place to celebrate among the most basic components of the video game -- the baseball -- and the surprisingly complicated history of attempts in ~ mass creating it.

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A experienced baseball only lasts because that an median of six pitches before being retired, according to significant League Baseball. That way somewhere between five and also six dozen balls will be used in every video game of this series, which could last for 7 games. 500 balls! and each one was hand sewn by Rawlings Sportings Goods, Inc. In Costa Rica, which holds an exclusive contract. That bit of news would offer Henry Ford nightmares. Obviously, it would certainly make sense to put together a maker for stitching the animal leather onto baseballs, but, come this day, nobody has been maybe to efficiently pull the off.

This article was initially published top top the Smithsonian collection Blog as part of a 31-day Blogathon in October because that American Archives Month and republished ~ above the nationwide Museum of American History"s "O Say can You See?" blog. It is republished right here with permission. It was created by Alison Oswald, an archivist in the museum"s Archives Center.

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An Undercover Invention: Baseball Covers and also Stitching

For baseball fans everywhere, October is a spiritual time. The signals the The Fall classic or the World series is almost upon us. Through talk the pennant races, batting averages, and future trades, it"s difficult to escape baseball. If cruising with the large holdings of the Archives center (over 20,000 linear feet that stuff) ns recently discovered a surprise gem that countless baseball pan will find interesting. It"s the fascinating yet little known story of an speculative baseball stitching maker made by the unified Shoe machinery Corporation (USMC) that Beverly, Massachusetts. I had actually a faint recollection that baseballs were hand sewn, but surely technology had captured up with this small, yet significant cultural object. I guessed wrong. The baseball is a facility little sphere. I started to delve deeper and also what I uncovered is the the baseball cover stitching procedure has resisted mechanization.

The united Shoe Machinery firm was developed in 1899 by the consolidation that the most essential shoe machinery firms in the market -- Goodyear Machinery company (made machinery because that sewing the sole to the upper in welt shoes), Consolidated Hand Lasting device Company (made devices for lasting a shoe), and also McKay shoes Machinery agency (made makers for it is registered soles and heels). On might 1, 1905, the new company became officially well-known as the unified Shoe machinery Corporation. The merger reinvented shoe equipment manufacturing and also the shoe market itself. Through this merger, conflict patents were eliminated and also patents supplementing each other were carried under United"s manage to permit their prompt combination in a single device or process. To ensure efficiency, the new company likewise continued the exercise previously complied with by its ingredient firms the renting machinery instead of marketing it. ~ the 1899 merger, United flourished rapidly. By 1910, it had actually an eighty percent share of the shoe machinery market, v assets reaching forty million dollars, and it had actually acquired manage of branch companies in foreign countries. USMC to be headquartered in Boston, and also its main manufacturing plant remained in Beverly, Massachusetts.


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USMC used the company"s expertise in machine technology to other areas of advance in order come diversify that is product line. Under the direction the the research Division, the firm engaged in military, computer, and other automation projects. The EX documents or "experimental files" in the collection represent ordinary testing related to the advance and innovation of shoe production machinery, and work done in connection with the company"s post-World War two diversification efforts. The documents cover all aspects of an experimental project, from conception through the speculative working out of problems, come the final decision to embrace or not embrace the idea because that production. Castle also provide information ~ above the attributes of the study Division, the way in which it operated, and also the method in which production decisions were made. In particular, they show the Division"s interaction and cooperation through the company"s Patent Department. The documents usually contain notes, technical drawings, photographs, and also patent information.

Starting as beforehand as 1949, the agency undertook 3 experiments to create a baseball stitching machine: EX#16002, EX#16116, and also EX#16279. These three projects document experimental job-related in the area the baseballs, specifically of automatic controls, component inserting, and stitching. The target of the speculative projects, according to a July 11, 1950 work-related request, to be "to construct a perfect baseball covering equipment for mechanizing to the greatest practical extent both parts of the present discretionary hand lasting-lacing operation." The full advancement included an evaluation of the hand procedure and how each section of that work-related would be handled. The ball starts together a ring cushioned cork center called a "pill," then is covering tightly in windings of wool and also polyester/cotton yarn, and then extended by stitched cowhide. The procedure of assembling a baseball entails two varieties of workers: assemblers (who assemble the core parts of the baseball) and sewers (who stitch the cowhide covers ~ above the baseball through hand). There room 108 stitches in the cowhide leather of every ball, and also each is excellent by hand.

Research personnel in ~ USMC recognized that this advance would it is in extremely difficult and expensive. Indeed, native July 1950 come November 1961, the complete expense of the task was $343,000. In 1950, the economics of baseball stitching were detailed in a price chart. The labor price for lacing was 15 to 20 cents per ball, through a production rate of five to 6 balls per hour. Clearly, mechanizing would rise the production dramatically.

The initial occupational order EX#16116 was opened up to study and also model work crucial to illustrate a method for preparing baseballs prior to stitching. A December 5, 1949 memo native W.L. Abel the the USMC Research department stated the "very small consideration has been provided to the mechanization that conditioning and also preparation the baseball consists for an equipment stitching (this gift the instance both inside and outside the company). Every attempts that we know of have actually been principally through the mechanization that the stitching."

Engineers at USMC broke down the problem into five areas: covering assembly (lasting); needle threading; start of stitching (anchoring the first stitch); stitching or lacing; and lastly, last stitching (final object anchoring). Previous automated machines exhibited two major problems: they to be unable to start or stop the stitching process without hand-operated assistance, and also they to be unable to differ the tension of the stitches. Native 1950 to 1955, the basic model work-related was conducted, resulting in devices which demonstrated the operations. In 1955, official design and detailing was initiated to solve existing engineering and also design problems and to record, in drawing form, several pieces of tools necessary to achieve the all at once objective.

Inventors don"t job-related in isolation, and also at USMC the development process was both shared and also well documented through notebooks, memos, drawings and photographs. We are fortunate to have actually this documentation in the Archives Center. The baseball stitching task was a team effort. A actors of "inventive talent" was involved, principally Sidney J. Finn, who initially lugged the idea front in 1949, otto R. Haas, and also Joseph Fossa. If I uncovered no evidence of it, I prefer to think that all three guys were baseball fans or at least played ~ above the company"s baseball team.

W.W. Pritchard that the Research division noted in January, 1949 that among the problems is "the lasting that the baseball cover and also that the matter should be referred to the inventive talent at Beverly to check out if they have the right to come soon with any kind of ideas regarding how this can be accomplished." Haas"s earlier work concerned baseball sewn covers (US Patent 2,840,024) and an apparatus that sews with each other the edges of a baseball (US Patent 2,747,529). Joseph Fossa held several patents because that baseball sewing apparatus, principally approaches for spheriphying baseballs (US Patent 3,178,917) and also for approaches of assembling by sewing the cover pieces of baseballs (US Patent 3,179,075). The "inventive talent" the Finn, Haas, Fossa, and also countless other USMC designers all assigned your patents come the unified Shoe machinery Corporation under the direction the a durable patenting programming.

Many of the baseball manufacturers, such as A.G. Spaulding, J. De Beer and Son, MacGregor, Wilson, Lannon Manufacturing, George Young, and Tober Baseball production Company, were mindful of USMC efforts to produce a stitching machine. While the customer basic was minimal in number, the potential revenue from a stitching maker could have been substantial. Because of insufficient interest ~ above the part of this baseball manufacturers (at this suggest the baseball industry was not sufficiently organized to sponsor the advance of a machine) and unresolved problems by the company"s engineers, the experimental work orders to be closed.

In 1972, Robert H. Bliss, Planning director of USMC, composed to R.B. Henderson, Vice chairman of research study and advance at AMF Voit, "Our advancement program was curtailed in March, 1961 as soon as the Baseball Manufacturers Committee that Athletic products Manufacturing Association decreased to support more development, and also our administration made a decision not to further fund the regime without sector support." Bliss further listed that the baseballs stitched top top USMC"s model maker "were much more uniform in appearance than a hand-laced ball, yet there was some speculation the a significant league pitcher can tell the difference and also would choose a hand-laced ball." while the business economics of the moment were taken into consideration good, the company could no justify spending much more money top top the project. Various other than increasing the company"s knowledge in the area the stitching technology, over there was small likelihood the a large application would result.

Baseballs are still hand sewn. Rawlings Sporting Goods, Inc. (now component of Jarden Team Sports), in Costa Rica has an to exclude, contract to develop "professional" baseballs because that the significant Leagues. The amateur baseballs us throw approximately in the backyard are manufactured elsewhere. Attempts have actually been made come automate the process of stitching cowhide covers on baseballs, however none has actually been successful. C.B. Bateman of USMC said in august 1963, "we have actually a long, long method to walk for a commercial piece of equipment to be presented to the trade." and we"re quiet waiting. Play ball!

Alison Oswald is an archivist in the Archives facility at the nationwide Museum that American History.

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Images: 1. Willie Mays baseball card, ca. 1955. Indigenous the Ronald S. Korda collection of Sports and Trading Cards; 2. Schematic of mechanism for a baseball cover sewing maker designed by S.J. Finn, march 1949. Drawing by Don Hamm. Unified Shoe Machinery agency Records, crate 105A, Folder 2.