Baseball is a great game to both play and watch. Whether you have participated in the sport yourself or just enjoy hitting a baseball around with friends and family, you have probably noticed some details about how the ball is designed.
One thing that stands out on an official Major League baseball is the red stitching. The stitches on a baseball, called virgules, are more than just a decorative touch – they serve a purpose
If you are curious about how baseballs are made, how many stitches are on a baseball, or what baseballs are made of, be sure to read on to find the answers to all your questions, and more.
Baseballs may seem like simple objects, but a lot goes into making them properly. Learning about the process can make you appreciate the sport more and can even make you a better player.
How Many Stitches on a Baseball?
If you are wondering about baseball stitching and how many stitches there are on Major League baseballs, you might be surprised to know that it’s actually an exact number.
There’s not a random amount of stitches that hold the ball together. Each baseball has the same amount of waxed red thread.
There are a total of 108 double stitches on each baseball ball. That’s 216 stitches in the cowhide leather of each official ball.
These stitches are also handmade with waxed red thread that glides through the leather shell easily. How many stitches each ball has is important because balls that do not have the right amount of stitches could be refused in the National League or Major Leagues.
Baseball stitches are also lined up perfectly and must form a precise pattern. Any faults will mean that the ball cannot be considered an official baseball.
What Are the Different Layers of a Major League Baseball?
The stitches on a baseball are important, but so are the other parts of the ball.
A baseball may look simple on the outside. In fact, you may only notice the white outer shell and the baseball stitching pattern.
If you were to cut a baseball in half, you would see all the layers and materials that make up a baseball.
Inside a baseball you will find a cork center. The cork is round and balanced.
The next layer of the ball is a black rubber core. The rubber center helps protect the cork and gives the ball some bounce.
The next layer is a red rubber covering that also covers the inner cork. The next two layers are made of four-ply gray yarn and white wool yarn, and then another layer of cotton yarn covers the two black rubber shells, wool yarn, and rubber-coated cork.
Baseball manufacturers use computerized winding machines to ensure the ball has equal tension all round.
On the outside is a thin layer of cowhide that is hand stitched. All these layers come together to make the perfectly round ball that we have all become familiar with.
How Does the Number of Stitches on a Major League Baseball Affect Performance?
The raised stitches on professional baseballs go through a rigorous process. The hand stitching can take some time to finish, but it is important because it can have an effect on the performance of the ball.
The rougher the stitches, the more resistance they add to the ball when it is traveling through the air. This includes when it’s being pitched or being hit.
It can also have an effect on the ball’s trajectory and whether or not it follows its intended path or curves. The stitches on a baseball make it possible for the ball to spin smoothly.
And it can affect home run records and more. This is also why it’s important for balls to be replaced in games if the stitches start to come out or if there are other issues.
The smallest imperfection on a ball can lead to problems for both pitchers and batters.
How Long Does it Take to Stitch a Baseball?
Because the stitches on a baseball are hand stitched, they can take some time to complete. The leather is prepared with a rolling machine, and an ordinary baseball may go through the rolling machine several times.
The stitching process is done after the leather is prepared. The stitches are added so the cowhide covering is wrapped around the rest of the ball.
Most of the time, a modern baseball is made by Rawlings Sporting Goods and has a Rawlings logo. They have a manufacturing company that makes balls for professional baseball games, the National League, and the American League.
Other professional baseball clubs may also use these balls. On average, workers spend about 15 to 20 minutes hand stitching each ball.
An employee may work on a dozen baseballs at a time and complete them in a normal work day. That means it takes a long time to make league-quality baseballs.
Considering the amount of baseballs replaced during a typical nine inning game, it’s a lot of work for something that won’t get used for a very long period of time.
The good news is, many balls are recycled and while they can’t be used for world series games or other official American League games, they can be sold as souvenirs or hit as intentional foul balls so the crowd can catch them and take them home.
The History of Stitches on a Baseball
Professional leagues have been using stitched balls for decades and even early baseballs were hand stitched. Modern baseballs are much more high tech than older baseballs.
How much the baseball weighs and how big it is has also changed. In the early days, there were balls called lemon peel balls that were named after their appearance, which looked like a lemon and had a rough, bumpy covering.
The inner core of the tightly wound ball has also changed. In the past, the red rubber gaskets were taken from old shoes.
The baseballs also consisted of two peanut-shaped pieces that were placed together to form the black rubber hemispheres that make up the ball.
New balls came into play when Boston Red Sox pitcher AG Spalding introduced a new ball into the game and got the authorities to make his ball the official ball.
New baseballs are made from the center out and while some are finished with machine stitching, the first and last stitch is always hand-stitched, and they still use double stitches to ensure the right aerodynamics.
American baseball balls may have changed in many ways, but they still have that same old-school look.
Why Are Baseball Stitches Red?
Why are baseball stitches red? Because the National League preferred red.
Baseball stitches were actually a few different colors in the past. The American League and the National League did not always agree on what color the stitches should be.
In fact, the American League used a mixture of black and blue ink to dye the stitches.
In 1934 it was decided that all professional baseball threads should be red and double-stitched for a professional game. Since red was already being used by both leagues, it made sense to drop the other colors and keep it.
The MLB also has rules about the colors of pitcher uniforms and gloves.
How Much Does it Cost to Buy Balls For a Major League Baseball Season?
Each of the 30 teams in the pro baseball league plays many games over a season. That equates to around 960,000 baseballs and costs around $8.56 million per season.
The league can spend $1,000 on their own balls for one game. Baseballs rarely remain in play for longer than six innings and most are removed from the game in as little as three innings.
Why Do Baseballs Have To Be Replaced During a Game?
The reason it costs so much to buy baseballs for a season is because all the baseballs are replaced often in the game. If they get infield dirt on them, are damaged, or if the threads get torn, the ball would have to be replaced.
Baseballs used by famous players (otherwise known as “famous baseballs”) that are taken out of a game, can be sold as souvenirs for a lot of money. For example, famous player Barry Bonds’ ball sold for $750,000 in an auction.
Sometimes, if the balls aren’t sold, they are used as practice balls for other leagues or clubs so they aren’t wasted.
In many cases, these balls may not appear to be damaged or have anything wrong with them. It takes a trained eye to know if a ball is damaged and needs to be replaced during a baseball game.
If you love the game of baseball and are curious about baseballs themselves and how they are made, or how many stitches they have, the guide above should help answer some of your questions.
Unlike cricket, baseballs are made to meet strict standards and have specific requirements if they’re going to be used in ball games. Knowing more about baseballs will help you understand the game better and enjoy the sport more.
So, the next time you buy a baseball or play a game of catch, think about everything that goes into making the balls.