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Enter the Wiffle Ball, an alternative baseball with holes

Major League Wiffle Ball tourney in Michigan wraps up on Sunday 14 August 2022.

I grew up playing softball in the backyard with my daddy, practicing for the junior high team. It’s one way we figured out that I was nearsighted!

In high school, girls basketball. Intramural football in college as well as a mixed softball team (usually three women required). And racquetball. I loved racquetball in grad school!

But I’ve never played Wiffle ball. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a Wiflle ball in a sporting goods store or section. But play? Know anyone who played? Nope.

That’s a bit surprising given its longevity.

In 1953, David N. Mullany noticed his 12-year-old son was having trouble throwing a curve ball using a perforated plastic golf ball. The kids were playing with “a plastic golf ball and broomstick in an attempt to keep from breaking windows or having to chase home runs down the street.”

“My father complained his arm was hurting from trying to throw curves with that small ball,” says the third David Mullany, who is currently president of The Wiffle Ball, Inc. “My grandfather figured he could come up with something better for them to play with.”

Mullany, “former college baseball player and recently laid off salesman,” began experimenting with how to create a ball that curved naturally when thrown. Some friends at Coty Perfume gave him plastic half-spheres. He and his son went to work at the kitchen table, gluing two halves together and then cutting a lightweight plastic ball the size of a (1953) baseball. The glue would dry overnight; they would would test the design the next day.

The ball they created the third night, 14 August 1953, was a winner. It had eight oblong cuts on one side of the ball and weighed about one-third as much as a baseball.

What started out as an idea in a backyard in this Connecticut suburb has since drifted into the popular imagination and now ranks with the Hula-Hoop and Barbie as quintessentially American toys.

[…]

On the walls of the office, they have old newspaper clippings along with a letter of thanks from Dick Cheney, then the secretary of defense. During the first gulf war, one of the items on the top of the soldiers’ wish list was Wiffle balls and bats, so the company sent them a bunch.

The Mullanys got their patent on 01 January 1957. A contract with F.W. Woolworth (anyone remember this five-and-dime store?) in 1959 put the toy on its track to success.

Tournaments started in the United States and Europe in 1977.

In 2017, the Wiffle ball was inducted into the National Museum of Play.

This weekend, Major League Wiffle (MLW) hosts an annual tourney in Michigan on 13-14 August.

 

#scitech, #society (206/365)
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Daily posts, 2022-2023

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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