It seems that, even in this high-tech age, baseballs are still
"TURRIALBA, Costa Rica...
Major-league baseballs have a unique history... Each ball is assembled
and hand-sewn by more than 300 futbol-loving Costa Ricans... But some
do realize their arduous $58-a-week jobs have an impact on a sport
followed by millions across the globe.
'They haven't made a machine yet that can do it,' said Douglas Kralik,
51, the general manager and vice-president of Rawlings de Costa Rica,
who grew up near the cornfields in southeast Iowa. 'This is the only
way it can be done - one at a time, by hand.'
...Today, all of the low-end balls are manufactured at the Rawlings
plant in China. The Costa Rica factory, with its 450 employees, now is
the only producer of major league baseballs."
The Cincinnati Enquirer: Major-league baseballs hand-made in Costa
"If you've ever hacked open a baseball, you may have wondered how the
skin got sewn on there... What mechanized needle could possibly plunge
down through a baseball's leather skin, hang a left turn, and pop up
through the next hole? How could this sewing machine maintain the
precise string tension that produces those perfect, gentle nubs along
On the phone, Steve Johnson sighs. He's the guy whose job at Rawlings
Sporting Goods is to lose sleep over leather quality and wool supply
as the demand for professional balls explodes.
'We worked on a machine for about 10 years,' he says sadly. 'Ten
years. It just never would work.'
It turns out that every baseball on the planet (excluding the rubber
ones whose stitches are carefully crafted to look like the real thing)
is sewn together by hand."
Discovery Channel: The Skinny on Sewing Up Baseballs
"The cowhides for the cover are checked for 17 different defects -
stretch marks, tick bites, barbwire marks, etc. The leather is tested
for tensile strength and sent to the Rawlings-owned Tennessee Tanning
factory in Tullohoma. There, the leather is alum tanned, which gives
it the white color, and cut in a figure 8. Two pieces make one cover,
and the cover is double stitched by hand using 10/5 red thread.
Completed balls are tested for size, weight and coefficient of
restitution. Balls are retested after being shipped to the States.
Balls that make the cut are sent to the majors, and those that don't
are sold on the retail market."
Popular Mechanics: Baseball's New Baseball
"Who has ever seriously considered what goes in to making baseballs?
To Rawlings, this knowledge is excrutiatingly important. Today,
instructiouns call for a cork nucleus that weighs exactly 0.5 oz and
is 2.86 to 2.94 inches in diameter. It is to be incased in two thin
rubber layers - one black, one red - and weigh a total of 7/8 oz.
This nucleus is then machine-wound under high, consistent tension with
121 yards of four-ply blue-gray wool, 45 yards of three-ply white
wool yarn, 53 more yards of three-ply blue-gray wool yarn and 150
yards of fine white polyester-cotton blend yarn. This is coated with
rubber cement before the cover is put on. The cover consists of two
pieces of elongated figure-eight-shaped white cowhide, dampened to
permit strething, which is then handstiched together with 216 raised
stitches, using 88 inches of red cotton thread. Finally, the ball is
rolled for 15 seconds while still slightly damp so the seams are even
and reasonable flat."
Roanoke College: C&E News Summary
"Baseballs are all made to be the same size and weight. All baseballs
are 9 to 9 1/4 inches in circumference. All baseballs weigh 5 to 5 1/4
ounces. The center of a baseball is a cork ball. The cork ball is
covered with rubber. Cotton and wool yarn are tightly wound around the
cork and rubber center. 150 yards of cotton yarn (450 feet) and 219
yards of wool yarn (652 feet) are used to make a baseball. If the yarn
was stretched out it would be longer than three football fields! The
cover of a baseball is made out of cowhide. Two pieces shaped kind of
like a peanut are sewn together by hand with exactly 108 stitches. The
Rawlings Company makes all the baseballs for the major leagues."
Thinkquest Totally Baseball: Equipment of Yesterday and Today
Search terms used:
"sewing a baseball"
"stitching a baseball"
I hope this information is useful. If anything is unclear, or if a
link does not function, please request clarification; I'll be glad to
offer further assistance before you rate my answer.
Clarification of Answer by
28 Jul 2003 12:33 PDT
I've found a company that seems like a promising lead:
"As a testament to Cote Brothers commitment to cutting edge technology
and ingenuity, recently, they were called on to solve a dilemma with
the B-1 Stealth Bomber. The Stealth Bomber wing design features a
fabric baffle, into which the jet exhaust is diverted during
high-speed landings. These 17 foot long baffles would tear out under
the enormous stress, and need to be repaired. Before Cote Brothers was
brought in, out of the fleet of 98 bombers, almost half were grounded
because of this problem. The fix at that time was accomplished with
sewing the baffles by hand with a baseball stitch, taking weeks to
repair just one. Cote Brothers was able to set up a special sewing
machine and carrying system for the heavy baffle. The baffle repairs
now take a matter of days, and the fleet of Stealth Bombers is now at
You'll find contact info for Cote Brothers on the page linked above. I
would think that, if they can arrange for a machine to do
baseball-stitching on the baffles of the Stealth Bomber, they are
likely to be capable of meeting your needs!