According to the official rules, a Major League baseball weighs 5 to 5.25 ounces. But that only applies to a ball that’s being used in Major League baseball.
If you’re playing with friends, you don’t really have to follow anybody’s rules. I once made a baseball with my dad that weighed 10 ounces, and as long as my friends didn’t have a problem with it, I could pitch with it.
Although, it was harder to pitch with than the conventional 5-ounce ball, and I didn’t use it for long.
Baseball is supposed to have evolved from the English game of rounders somewhere around 1750. It was only in 1850 that official rules were made about the equipment that could be used.
Before that, you could use any kind of ball and call it a baseball.
If you’re asking the question—how much does a single baseball weigh?—I think it’s safe to assume you probably have an interest in the background of baseball.
So let’s take a look at the history of baseball, and the manufacturing process, so we can get some perspective.
- The History of the Baseball
- What did a baseball ball weigh in the Dead-Ball era?
- How many pounds did a baseball ball weigh in the Live-Ball era?
- What did the ball weigh during World War II and Post World War II?
- How Much Does a Little League Baseball Weigh?
- Final Note
- Frequently Asked Questions
The History of the Baseball
Major League baseballs (MLB baseballs) have a mostly standard design. They consist of cork mixed with a little rubber.
A layer of black rubber and then red rubber is added to the cork core. Next, a revolving machine is used, in a temperature-controlled room, to wrap the ball. First, it’s wrapped in gray wool, then in white wool, and lastly, the white wool is covered in fine white cotton/polyester.
The revolving machine is used in a temperature-controlled room to ensure that the rubber doesn’t sweat or expand at all and change the ball’s complexion.
Then the cotton, yarn, and rubber base are covered in rubber cement, and finally, a leather covering is stitched over the rubber cement, and you have a finished ball.
The final stitching is done by hand, but the rest of the process is carried out by machines. Some unsuccessful attempts have been made to automate the manufacturing process completely.
The raw materials for Major Leagues baseballs are shipped to Costa Rica, where they are put together, in part, by machine; then, they are stitched by hand and returned to the US.
A typical baseball that is produced for the official league, such as the National League, needs to weigh around 5 ounces. But baseballs weren’t always made this way, as we’ll soon find out.
There are four main stages (or eras) that baseball balls evolved through, namely, the Dead-Ball era, the Live-Ball era, the World War II era, and the era after World War II.
What did a baseball ball weigh in the Dead-Ball era?
The Dead-Ball era began when baseball first became a distinct game and ended when baseball became regulated by an authority. In the early Dead-Ball era, pitchers made their own balls from leather, wood, and whatever materials struck their fancy—there was no “manufacturing process” with these early balls.
This was a glorious time for baseballs as every baseball was completely unique—no two baseballs were the same. Pitchers would spend hours over beer arguing the merits of cowhide leather over horsehide leather, or vice versa.
As a result, there was no set weight for baseballs during this time.
The dead-ball era was a time of freedom and innovation. Literally, hundreds of new ways to make baseballs were tried out by pitchers.
Like the early days of the Wild West when there were no rules, everything was permitted, and nothing was forbidden.
The era came to an end in 1876 when A. G. Spalding’s proposal for a standardized baseball with a rubber core was accepted.
The National Leagues standardized the type of ball to be used, which had an outer shell of red rubber.
Spalding was a pitcher himself, who made his own baseballs. After his proposal was accepted, balls began to be manufactured according to the standard regulations and soon he became a successful businessman.
How many pounds did a baseball ball weigh in the Live-Ball era?
In 1920, Spalding began using Australian wool to wrap the core of the baseball. This was known as the Live-Ball era.
The effect of the Australian yarn ball was to make the ball more “bouncy.” In those days, the same ball would usually be used for an entire game before the game rules were changed.
After the introduction of the Australian wool ball, there was an increase in batters’ performance and baseball became a more offensive game as it became easier to hit the ball farther.
Then in 1934, the American League and the National League determined a standardized manufacturing process by which baseballs had to be made.
The baseball core was made from red rubber or black rubber and then wrapped in 71 yards of blue-gray woolen materials.
Then another layer of 41 yards of fine white cotton yarn was wrapped around the ball. Finally, a layer of tanned horse leather was stitched around the wrappings.
The final product had to weigh the actual standard weight of between 5 and 5.25 ounces.
What did the ball weigh during World War II and Post World War II?
When America joined World War II in 1941, rubber became a rare commodity.
Rubber was used in many of the industries supporting the war effort. It was used to make boots, military vehicle tires, and guns for the soldiers fighting in World War II.
As a result, baseball cores were made from cork instead of the rubber mixture.
In 1944, when synthetic materials started to be produced, the US started producing synthetic rubber, or a rubber-like substance which was used for making baseballs. When World War II ended, and things returned to normal, rubber was once again easily available.
And rubber baseball cores made a return.
In 1970, the Major League decided to change the regulations for the ball’s covering. Coverings now had to be made of cowhide instead of horsehide.
Since then, there hasn’t been a “new ball” or any notable changes in the rules governing baseballs and their design.
How Much Does a Little League Baseball Weigh?
A Little League baseball is obviously lighter than the hard baseballs used for Major League baseball (MLB baseball) games because they have been designed for smaller players and bats.
In general, the baseball for children weighs between 4 and 5 ounces.
Rubber baseballs, created in Japan in the 50s, were first made for children as a type of compromise between a hard baseball and too-soft tennis balls. They are not very popular in modern-day baseball in the US, but they are still used in Japan.
Even though modern baseballs still have that same cork core, they are very different to how they were first constructed. Each change over the years influenced the way in which the game was played.
In general, in modern baseball, a pitcher will use the same ball for six pitches, which means that during one baseball game, the pitcher will use approximately a dozen baseballs. It’s safe to say, then, that how a baseball is made is obviously an important factor when playing the game, and the weight of the baseball is equally important.
I guess a crucial question to ask is, how much does a baseball weigh?
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an official baseball weigh? Does it matter?
If you’re playing an ordinary baseball game with friends, then it doesn’t matter at all. But if you’re playing in the American and National leagues, in the Minor leagues, or in an official capacity for your high school baseball team, then it does matter.
Baseball, like any other sport, is governed by a regulatory authority. So, when you play a game that’s being officiated, you have to follow the rules.
There are rules about what equipment can be used by players. This includes bats, mitts, helmets, and balls.
An official baseball has to weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces. If your baseball’s weight is outside this range, then you won’t be allowed to pitch it.
There are also rules about what materials the ball can be made out of and what its circumference can be.
Should I use a heavier or a lighter baseball?
The permitted weight range allows a 0.25-ounce variation, so the heaviest ball you can use is 5.25 ounces, and the lightest is 5 ounces exactly. Although the weight difference may appear minuscule, it does matter on the professional level.
If the ball is lighter, then it’s easier to make it break or move when you throw curveballs or two-seamers. But if it’s heavier, the extra weight stabilizes the ball’s trajectory, making it more accurate.
The heavier ball will also have a greater momentum which means that your fastballs will be harder.
So I would choose a ball depending on which type of pitch you want to use.
Should I practice my pitches by using heavier-than-standard baseballs?
There are some pitches, like the fastball, that demand a great deal of arm strength from the pitcher. For pitches like these, I think it might help to use a heavier baseball to practice.
Pitching the heavier ball will increase your arm strength faster than a normal one.
The downside is that if you practice too much with a heavy ball, then you might get used to it. So, when pitching a normal baseball, you might lose control and miss the plate entirely.
The heavier ball is more resistant to breaks, and this means that you can’t practice the pitches that depend on making the ball break. So when I practice with a heavier ball, I make sure that I don’t overdo it.
And afterward, I try to throw a few pitches with a normal ball so that my hand doesn’t forget what they feel like.