If you didn't know what a juiced baseball was before picking up The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches by Zack Hample, you sure will by the time you finish it. Famous ballhawk Zack Hample recounts loads of fun facts and figures about the baseball. The actual ball, not just the sport, in case you were confused about the title. Hample may go on a bit too long about the ins and outs of the history of the manufacture of the balls, down to weight in fractional ounces. But there are so many fun stories interspersed throughout that you can excuse his obsessive need to share the almost moment-by-moment evolution of the major league baseball.
I found quite interesting that the baseball, taken for granted by most fans, except in their desire for a souvenir, has been a constant source of controversy in relation to how games are scored and players are performing. With all the steroids scandals in recent years it was interesting to learn that similar scandals have always plagued the sport — many centered on the actual ball and if it was up to standards.
Hample takes the reader inside the Rawlings Costa Rican baseball production factory — apparently a top-secret operation. He also relates the interesting story of Albert Spalding, a pitcher in the early days of the baseball (1871), who retired from the sport in 1878 to build his sporting goods business. He was a ruthless businessman and pretty much created a monopoly to produce the baseballs and other sporting equipment. The Spalding company bought out every major competitor, including Rawlings. But the contract to produce major league baseballs was transferred suddenly to rival Rawlings in 1976. Why? Was Spalding still involved somehow in baseball production? Hample doesn't tell us, which is odd, considering his ability to cram in so many facts and figures elsewhere in Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets, and especially since he got us interested in mid-nineteenth century business practices and the history of the company in the first place.