KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 11, 2002 -- After having captured national attention in the fall of 2000 for determining that changes in major league baseballs have made them livelier, members of the University of Rhode Island Forensic Science Partnership have been invited to a national baseball research conference.
The group will participate in the Lively Ball Colloquium as part of a conference being run by the Society for American Baseball Research June 27 through 30 at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. The Lively Ball Colloquium is being held June 27, 9 a.m. and is open to members only.
The Society for American Baseball Research was established in Cooperstown, New York in August of 1971. The Society's mission is to foster the study of baseball, to assist in developing and maintaining the history of the game, to facilitate the dissemination of baseball research, to stimulate interest in baseball, and to safeguard the proprietary interests of its members' research efforts. The Society has more than 7,000 members worldwide and more than 10 percent are coming to Boston.
Members of the URI team that will appear in Boston include: Christopher Brown, URI chemistry professor; Otto Gregory, URI chemical engineering professor; Michael Platek, URI electrical materials engineer; Linda Welters, URI professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design; and Dennis Hilliard, co-director of the URI Forensic Science Partnership and director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory at URI.
Hilliard will provide an overview of the project at URI, and then each of the scientists will talk about their specific research on the balls.
"Its been an interesting and fun project from the start," Hilliard said. "We were surprised to find changes in the baseballs from the 1960s to the 1990s. Of course we do have the caveat that we only had five baseballs, so there may be more work to do. But we found differences in the balls using a wide range of scientific analysis."
After the URI team announced its findings in late October of 2000, the news captured attention in Business Week, Discover Magazine, ABCNEWS.com, Popular Science, and radio stations and newspapers across the country.
The team found that the cores of Major League baseballs from 1995 and 2000 bounce higher than ones from 1963, 1970 and 1989 and that this may be due to the fact that they contain different materials that could make them livelier.
The original six URI researchers found that balls from 1989, 1995 and 2000 contain synthetic materials in windings that are supposed to be made of wool and a greater concentration of rubber in the core, commonly known as the pill. In addition, the researchers found that pills from the 1995 and 2000 balls bounced an average of 33 percent higher than their 1989, 1970 and 1963 counterparts. One of their conclusions is that Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., the maker of Major League baseballs, doesn't follow its own specifications for some of the windings used in the balls.
The research began in mid-May 2000, when AM 790 (WSKO) Sportsradio the Score wanted to determine if balls from 1989, 1995 and 2000 were actually livelier than balls from 1963 and 1970. Hilliard, Gregory and others from URI began the tests during a live broadcast outside Quaker Lane Tool, during which the team conducted bounce tests on the balls, and then pulled them apart and did bounce tests on the core.
Even those basic tests showed the balls from 1995 and 2000 jumped significantly higher than their counterparts from 1963, 1970 and 1989. The same was true for the pill.
Listeners donated the balls. The covers of the 1989, 1995 and 2000 balls clearly identify them as Major League balls. The 1970 cover has some smudged writing that looks like a Major League mark, and it also has handwriting saying that the ball is from the Aug. 16 game between the Twins and Red Sox at Fenway Park, and that the ball was recovered from a foul hit by Rico Petrocelli. Petrocelli played for the Sox from 1963 through 1976. The cover of the 1963 ball has no clear identifying mark, but some handwriting says it came from the bat of Chuck Schilling on April 16, opening day. Schilling was the second baseman for the Sox from 1961 through 1965.
Once the live demonstration in May was over, the balls' remnants were taken to URI labs for further testing. URI chemists, engineers and textile scientists closely examined critical components of each ball to assess liveliness. A Rawlings fact sheet says the company tests for liveliness by measuring the ratio of rebound velocity to impact velocity when a ball is fired from an air cannon at 85 feet per second, or 58 miles per hour, against an immobile northern white ash surface. Using that method, Rawlings comes up with a coefficient of restitution (COR), or resiliency, of a finished baseball. The COR shall be between 51.4 percent and 57.8 percent.
Hilliard said that the 1963 and 1970 balls were most likely made by Spalding, which manufactured Major League baseballs for 100 years beginning in 1876, while the three others were made by Rawlings, which became the MLB vendor in 1977.
For Information: Dennis Hilliard 401-874-2893, Linda Welters 401-874-4525, Christopher Brown 401-874-2369, Otto Gregory 401-874-2085, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116.