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It’s almost summer. And with summer comes sunshine, cookouts, beach parties, and the heart of the baseball season. What’s more American than baseball?  And what’s more American than taking baseball and scaling it down so that it can be played with friends and family in a backyard? Don’t let your lack of athleticism prevent you from enjoying America’s favorite pastime. All you need are a Wiffle Ball, a bat, and a few moderately coordinated friends. Cue China Grove

In the summer of 1953, young David A. Mullany and a friend were playing baseball in the backyard.  They didn’t have a whole lot of space so they had to modify their game.  A broom handle would serve as a bat.  A plastic golf ball would serve as a baseball.  These boys had already reaped the consequences of an unintended line drive and were not about to take any chances with a heavy ball.

Young David’s father, former semi-pro pitcher David N. Mullany, watched as the boys played.  Recently unemployed, David Sr. was searching for something new.  Because of his son’s great interest in baseball, he saw the potential of a modified version of the game that could be safely played in the backyards of America. The key would be the proper ball.

David Sr. contacted a friend who worked in the packaging department of a local company who was able to provide him with several samples of a plastic ball-shaped package that he could use as his first prototype.  With his experience in baseball, David knew that all pitchers are trying to develop a good curve ball.  If he could come up with a lightweight plastic ball to facilitate trick pitches, it would set his apart from any other plastic ball that one might buy.  After several prototypes, he finally got it right.

Pete Rose also recommends doing things a little differently next time.

The iconic Wiffle Ball is hollow plastic, roughly the size of a standard baseball, with oblong perforations along one hemisphere.  These perforations facilitate the use of curve balls, sliders, sinkers, and risers.  You might ask, “How does this work?”  From Wiffle Ball’s own website, and I quote: “To this day, we don’t know exactly why it works… it just does!!”  Really?  I’m no physicist but even I have a pretty good idea of how it works.  Surely there is an expert out there who can end this mystery.  Anyone?

The narrow, hollow bat is normally yellow.  Both the ball and the bat are lightweight.  The wonderful side effect of this is that it equalizes the playing field (so to speak).  An adult player can’t hit the ball much further or faster than an adolescent.  One might think that the rules would be exactly like baseball, but Wiffle Ball is a modification made to handle the unforeseen complications of playing with limited players in limited space.  A full set of rules are available on their website.

From its inception, Wiffle Ball gained popularity quickly, using celebrity endorsements on the packaging until 1992.  Throughout the years, Wiffle Ball Inc. experimented with Wiffle Golf, Wiffle Football, and Wiffle Basketball, but none of them caught on in the same way.  There was a glow-in-the-dark version of Wiffle Ball.  It’s as if to say “There just aren’t enough hours of daylight…”  By the way, have you ever tried playing with a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee at night?  Let me save you some time, money, and heartache: Fat lip.  End of story.

Wiffle Ball Inc. remains in Connecticut.  It is still privately owned and managed by the Mullany family.  As of 1996, Wiffle Ball Inc. employed just 20 people.

Wiffle Ball

Do you want to see what a Wiffle Ball can do in the hands of a master? Check out this guy’s video.