Baseball, circa 1845

>> Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm putting the finishing touches on the latest revision of my forthcoming middle grade novel The Brooklyn Nine this week. The Brooklyn Nine is nine "innings," or generations, of an American family and their connections to baseball from the 1840s to the present. It's been a lot of fun to study up on both American history and baseball history, especially how different baseball was in its early incarnations.

The ball above is what baseballs looked like in the mid-19th century: dark brown/black leather, white stitches, and an 'X' seam pattern. A baseball like this plays an important role in The Brooklyn Nine, so I got one I could take on school visits with me for show and tell. I bought this one from an outfit called 19c Baseball, a company that specializes in 19th century baseball reproductions. Check out their site--it's a wealth of information about the early days of baseball. It's particularly interesting to read about the evolution of the baseball itself, and to see modern reproductions of them.

And check out the back of the ball--the 'X' seam doesn't meet on the back like it does the front, revealing the leather to be all one piece. Very cool!


Karen March 11, 2008 at 9:53 AM  

Cool! I just went to Cooperstown a couple of weeks ago, love all the old historical baseball artifacts from the beginnings of the game. My question is, could they throw all the different types of pitches with those balls? Or did those only happen when they invented the figure-eight stitch?

Looking forward to your book, Brooklyn is my new adopted home town (well, borough)!

Alan March 11, 2008 at 11:25 AM  

Developments like he curveball and the slider came later, but whether that was a consequence of the changes in the ball or not I don't know. At this point, the pitcher or "feeder" would still have delivered the ball underhand, and to the specific height and place the batter or "striker" requested. Pitchers were still putting the ball where batters wanted it in pro games as late as the 1880s, I think--but that's about the time that overhand pitching took over and the mound was moved back so batters could at least have a chance . . .

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