THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
One of the more spurious pretensions of baseball is that all baseballs are alike. Though the existence of lively balls and dead balls has been proved over many years, the pretense goes on. Hitherto the changes have been on a season-to-season basis, at one time favoring the pitchers, the next favoring the hitters. Now it appears that in the American League this year at least three teams are concerned about the difference in liveliness, size and method of distribution of two quite different baseballs presently in use.
There are indications that two American League East teams—Milwaukee and Cleveland—are using a livelier ball, put together in Haiti, in their home games. The Red Sox, on the other hand, receive only the comparatively dead ball manufactured in the U.S. Both baseballs are made by Spalding-Reach, but one is stamped "Made in the U.S." while the other, zippier, model bears the marking "Made in the U.S.—sewn in Haiti."
Last time the Red Sox were in Cleveland, the home club, as is league custom, supplied them with six dozen balls for batting practice. The balls came in a plain red box with no markings. Those the Red Sox get at home come in boxes plainly marked with the maker's name.
When the Sox returned to Boston they brought back with them five dozen of the Cleveland balls. They decided to use the " Haiti" balls in a four-game series with the Indians at Fenway Park. The Sox won three and tied one, which may or may not be relevant, but now they are investigating further.
Some eyebrows have been lifted in recent weeks over the number of homers that are being hit in the American League. As of a recent date, there had been 379 homers in 244 games, compared with 284 last season. One might think that the increase in home runs derives from the designated hitter rule. Not so. The designated hitters—at least in the AL East—are not hitting a lot of homers. Still, present indications are that if the current pace continues there will be a 25% increase in home runs in the league this year.
Carlton Fisk, the Red Sox catcher, says he finds considerable difference in the two balls.
"One feels bigger than the other," he maintains. "Maybe it's because of the seams, the way it's sewn."
"The Haiti ball is tighter," according to Eddie Popowski, third-base coach for the Sox. "At least that's the way it seems to me. It's got to be livelier."