Dodd: The Rabbit Ball: The story of baseball’s original juiced ball controversy

From Rustin Dodd at The Athletic on November 20, 2019:

On Dec. 9, 1930, a man named Julian W. Curtiss walked into the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan. Armed with a suitcase full of statistics, he had come to discuss the most contentious topic at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings: the ball itself. Curtiss was 72 and a luminary in American sports. Introduced to golf during a trip to England in 1892, he came to evangelize the sport in the United States. As the long-time president of the A.G. Spalding Company, he helped its founder, Albert Spalding, design the first basketball for James Naismith. 

Curtiss worked with the Amateur Athletic Union and the American Olympic Committee. He donned a dark suit and sported a thick mustache. He prepared to answer a simple question for a room of National League owners: Why was the Spalding baseball flying out of parks at a record pace?

The question of the baseball had hung over the sport for years, but the issue had come to a head in 1930. Offensive numbers exploded across both leagues. Sportswriters waxed about the effects of the “rabbit ball.” Purists such as New York Giants manager John McGraw and legendary umpire Bill Klem criticized the integrity of the entire sport. 

“When you have 20 or 30 runs in a game, that is not baseball,” Klem said. “How can there be any strategy in games of that kind when pitching, which should be the most important part of the defense, is reduced in importance.”

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Originally published: November 21, 2019. Last Updated: November 21, 2019.