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1885 Newspaper Article
Al Reach

Two Piece Figure 8 Baseball pastern
Two Piece Figure 8 Baseball Cover

4 Piece Lemon Orange Peel Baseball
4 Piece Orange Peel Baseball

Orange Quartered Baseball
Orange Peel Baseball

1871 Newspaper article

 
 KeyMan Collectibles  NEWSLETTER August 2017  
How Lemon Peel Orange Peel Base Balls were
 Steven KeyMan
Steven KeyMan
 Made - By Steven KeyMan
Founder of Keymancollectibles.com, and a long time collector, Steven KeyMan has more than 30 years of experience in researching, and cataloging information on Baseball Memorabilia. Researching his own personal collection, and helping others find information on their collectibles, the website grew into the largest online resource for baseball memorabilia
 

   Ask Steven: Direct your questions or feedback, about Baseball Memorabilia to Steven KeyMan Steve@keymancollectibles.com You can also Send KeyMan pictures of your personal Memorabilia Display, and get your own Free  Collectors Showcase Room featured on the website..   
 
 
ack in the day when you might have taken a horse and buggy to the ball field, chances are you bought your base ball at a local Shoe Maker. That's if you didn't make your own. Baseballs were not manufactured in great quantities. Most games were played with balls made by the players themselves. Al Reach, of the A.J. Reach co., talked about the "Old Days" back in the '50's when he was a kid and lived in Brooklyn. Him and his chums would take the Houston street ferry cross over to New York, and head over to John Van Horn's Shoe Store. In addition to boots & shoes, he made baseballs as a side issue.
 
 They were somewhat larger than the official balls used, and livelier, using strands of shoe rubber for the core. The balls had a four piece cover all equal, with each point of the cover meeting, and sewn together. Like quartered Orange peels. (we'll get to that later)
Orange Peel Baseball
 It was also common for a kid to unravel their mother's woolen stockings for winding a ball, then go to the village shoemaker and get him to cut out with his knife, four pieces of leather to sew on for a cover. Waxed ends were used to sew the four pieces of leather on the ball. The boy that had a pull with the shoemaker and could get him to sew the cover on was the most popular boy in that section of the country.

 The illustration to the left shows the shape of one of the quarters used for the cover which today is commonly referred to as a Lemon Peel baseball. But expert ball manufactures back in the day declared that it was first suggested by the quartering of an orange, which makes more sense as, no matter how you quarter a lemon you will not be left with four pieces to sew together to form a ball. An orange is round. I think we should revisit the naming of these balls and change it to Orange Peel baseballs.

 The two piece figure-eight covers like we use today were first used around 1858. By 1870 the four piece "Orange Peel" baseball is talked about as a relic from the past, in the "old days." One line of balls made for boys called the "Boss" ball, featured a "four piece cover" in the 1896 Spading catalog. Up until the 1860's the Orange peel balls could have been made by any business that worked in leather products. Shoe Maker's, Saddle maker's and even a Sail maker named Harry Ross, maker of the "Ross" Ball.
  History fails to attribute the inventor of the two piece “figure 8” cover. Some historians claim it was first developed by a shoemaker’s son named Ellis Drake, who supposedly put the design together with some of his father’s scrap leather in an effort to create a more resilient cover. Others, including Al Reach, give credit to Colonel William A. Cutler, who may have invented the familiar stitching in 1858 and sold it to one of the first baseball manufacturers, Harwood & Sons. (1885 accounts by Al Reach to the left) The following accounts are excerpts taken from an 1891 baseball manufacture that was "building Base Balls" with figure 8 covers.

The making of a league ball was a most careful and skillful job, and it required good judgment to follow accurately the league rules as to measure and weight while the ball is in process of being made. Working by a window for light, beginning the manufacturing of a ball the workman takes from an old peach basket full of rubber spheres one of the little globes. It is the nucleolus of the ball, today we call it the "pill." For many years the early balls were made with rubber balls imported from England. The English influence is also noticeable as some balls are sewn similar to cricket balls.

 With the rubber ball in his left hand the workman holds it at the ends of his fingers, and taking an end of blue woolen yarn (the same used to make mothers stockings) he winds it on the ball with a motion of his right hand so rapidly that you cannot follow it, while with his left hand, as the ball grows larger, he turns it so slowly one way and another that the ball can scarcely be seen to revolve. As the ball grows larger it is worked down from the finger slips into the hollow of the hand.

 Now the workman uses a standard cup shaped hollow. Every minute or sometimes every few seconds, he puts the growing ball on the standard and with a wooden mallet, flat and rather wide and short (sort of like a short cricket bat) beats the ball, turning it about in every way as he hammers it. To make the ball more solid the yarn is dampened. When the desired circumference is reached he is done.

 The covers are cut by using a steel die, and by boys working at nothing else all day but with a die and a mallet over a bench and leather. Before the cover is placed on the ball the leather is put into a tub of water. The leather must be wet through, so that when it dries it will be as tight as the bark on a tree and as hard as iron. The workman fits the pieces together on the ball so the edges meet, and with a three-cornered needle similar to that used by glovers, and threaded with Irish linen thread, he begins anywhere on the seam, and sews rapidly around until he has made the circuit of the sphere.

 The chunk is laid away to dry for several weeks. When it is dried, a worker winds the horsehide covered ball with blue again until it approaches the regulation size. Then comes the last winding with camels hair thread, imported for the purpose. The thread is dampened and it winds far more tightly around the ball than the finest silk. The ponding of the ball is continued until it is supposed to be heavy enough and large enough. To make sure that the rules are being observed, the workman from time to time puts the ball into a scale, something like a scale for weighing letters.

The final process is putting on the last cover. It is necessary that the cover is dampened so as to stretch on tightly, but not too tightly. The sewing is done with white Irish flax linen. After sewing on the cover there remains only the wrapping of the ball in tissue paper and afterwards tinfoil, and finally the packing of it in a stout paper which it comfortably fits.

  Orange peel baseballs (lemon peel)  
    In the mid 1850s, New York area ball clubs elected to standardize the ball’s weight at 5.5-6 ounces and its circumference at somewhere between 8 and 11 inches. These Orange Peel baseballs are surfacing in the hobby ranging in size from 6-12 inches with different stitching techniques. The differences attributed to when the ball was made, the region, and by who.

  A well seasoned ball maker could control the weight & size of a ball to the regulation size of the league the balls were being made for. Ballplayers making a ball inside a barn did not have the same skill or quality control as an established ball maker. They used materials that was available to them, and in some instances Mother's Stockings.

 This ball with the seam busted open shows the ball was made with the two cover method. There is also an area where the seam is slightly opened and shows the fine camel hair thread to "build the second ball" or outer cover. Years later a cement was used in place of the inner leather cover, both used to help the ball keep it's shape, after being beaten by a bat.
 
     
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