Are juiced balls the culprit in homer binge?
(Page 2 of 2)
He spent years studying the issue, and says the balls are the same as they always were. Even if the league wanted to tamper with the baseball, it would be no easy task.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"It's very difficult to make a ball that's more lively and not get caught," says Mr. Adair.
How would he do it? Place the balls in a 200-degree oven all night long. About an hour before game time, take them out. The covers will be cool, but the insides still warm.
"You'd have some livelier balls then," chuckles Adair. "But I can't see Mr. Sosa or Mr. McGwire sneaking in and putting the balls into an oven before the game."
Batters have done plenty to help themselves without changing the baseball. Fans fill the stadiums to see the long ball, and players are happy to oblige. They spend more time in the weight rooms bulking up.
"In every sport, the athlete is much bigger and stronger," says Mr. Sizemore, who played major league ball for 12 years before going to Rawlings. "In basketball, guards are now 6 ft., 6 in. In football, the linemen are all well over 300 pounds. And in baseball, the hitter is much bigger and stronger. They have developed at a much quicker rate than the pitchers have."
That has made for a more offensive game. But things weren't always so. Ball players were smaller and strategy was much more a part of baseball before World War II. The game had its humble beginnings in town meadows and fields. Fences were only brought in as a way to charge spectators, and even then they were well out of any reasonable field of play. Strategy was king.
"The subtleties of the game - the hit-and-run, the stealing, and the sacrifice - were a larger part of the game before the power hitters took over," Adair says.
The changes began when a "crazy kid, a wonderful pitcher named Babe Ruth, started swinging from the heels and hitting the ball over the fence," Adair says.
Many believe the fans have changed as well. It used to be kids grew up playing nothing but baseball. Now, they are just as likely to be shooting hoops. That has made for lack of understanding of baseball strategy. It's the spectacle that matters now.
"We don't have a lot of people complaining about the way the game is being played," says Pat Courtney, a Major League Baseball spokesman. He says the UMass study is being done to "reassure" the public that the balls aren't juiced. It should be finished before the season is over.
Building a baseball
* A cushioned cork sphere is covered by two layers of rubber. This is known as the pill. The pill is wrapped in three layers of woolen yarn. A fourth layer of cotton yarn is then added with an adhesive coating, which holds the two pieces of figure-eight shaped cowhide leather that are sewn on. After testing, it's ready to fly.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society