Hand-stitching the ball requires a total of 108 double stitches. The red stitches in Major League Baseball (MLB) are kept at appropriate temperatures to ensure that there are no stains on the baseball. How long does it take to hand stitch? It takes an average of 10 minutes per ball.
Stitching machines are used to produce stitching that is nearly invisible after washing. A stitching machine can create up to 20,000 stitches per hour. The sewing capacity of most household washing machines is not enough to hand sew a baseball so they must be sent to commercial washers which can handle much heavier loads.
There are two types of stitching on a baseball: straight and diagonal. Straight stitching goes across the ball in one continuous line from top to bottom or from left to right. Diagonal stitching forms a crisscross pattern over a portion of the ball's surface. Both types of stitching are done by hand. The type and number of stitches used will determine how visible the stitching will be after washing.
In addition to keeping out water, the stitched cover also serves as a glue to bind the leather together. The more stitches there are, the stronger the bond will be when the ball is finished.
The baseball is covered with 108 hand-stitched double stitches. According to Smithsonian Magazine, at the MLB level, these red stitches and the rest of what is utilized in a baseball are stored in temperature-controlled facilities and wound under tension so there are no "soft areas" in the ball. This means that every stitch has a purpose.
The number of stitches in a baseball varies depending on which part of the country you are in. In the Northeast, where soft balls are most common, they use about 100 stitches per ball while in the West, where hardballs are used, they use about 120 stitches per ball. The average MLB ball has about 110 stitches.
There are several parts to a baseball. Here's a list and description of each part:
1. Air cavity: The main component of the ball is the air cavity, which is surrounded by a rubber sheath. The rubber sheath helps keep the ball intact while also allowing it to be stretched during play. Without this stretching, the ball would become too rigid and stop rolling properly.
2. Cover: The cover is what you see when you open the ball up. It has the MLB logo on it along with other information such as batting averages, league leaders, and more. When sewing the cover onto the ball, they only sew around the outer edge, leaving the inside of the cover unsecured.
The initial and end threads are concealed, and the stitching is done by hand using 88 lengths of thread. The complete stitching procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes, plus 15 seconds in a rolling machine to even off any uneven threads.
The National League utilized baseballs with black laces interlaced with red laces in the early 1900s, whereas the American League used blue and red laces. The MLB set a league-wide standard in 1934 that has virtually stayed constant to this day: 108 double-stitches of waxed red thread.
The stitching on each baseball is done by hand using 88 lengths of waxed crimson thread. Hand sewing the two figure-eight pieces of outside cowhide together takes roughly 15 minutes before sending the baseball through a rolling machine for 15 seconds to flatten any elevated stitches. The flattened ball is then stitched up by hand again.
The average cost of making a new Major League Baseball is $1.8 million. Of this amount, an estimated $250,000 goes into the fabric and equipment used to make the ball. Remaining costs include labor and production expenses as well as a marketing budget.
The process of making a baseball begins with choosing the right material for the job. A ball made of vulcanized rubber is light enough to fly through the air but hard enough to provide distance if struck. For durability, a ball is made from between 65 and 70 percent wool and 30 and 35 percent cotton or linen. Some balls are also made from other materials such as leather or synthetic fibers.
Next, the ball must be cured by heating it in an oven for about an hour at 150 degrees Fahrenheit (or around 68 degrees Celsius). This step is necessary to mold the ball while it's still soft so that it will become solid when cooled down. If the ball is left uncured for too long, it will harden before being molded, which would prevent its shape from being preserved after it's been played with many times.
The fundamental reason for the question, "Why are there 108 stitches on a baseball?" is that stitching is both a measure of and a means of manufacturing a good quality baseball. Baseball's wind effect is also determined by sewing numbers and placements. The original ball, called the gutta percha ball because it was made from the sap of the gourd or cucurbit plant, was stitched in several places where the thread could not be seen.
Today's ball is needle-stitched throughout, usually with cotton thread, though synthetic materials are now used instead. About a dozen needles are used in each stitching operation, which can take two to three hours to complete depending on the size of the ball and the skill of the operator. Needle count is important because a higher number means a stronger ball that will remain closer to the ground. A strong ball is better for batting practice because it comes back more quickly than a weak one. There are about 18,000 stitches in a baseball today; this number has decreased over time as machines have been developed to sew balls more efficiently. It takes about 150 human fingers to make a single ball frame - hence the name "factory-sewn."
Baseball's long history is also responsible for its current shape.