Book update No. 3 — conquering the 1870s

I need your help, but first let me give you a general update…

I’ve pretty much finished writing Part One. Eventually I’ll have to go back and add a few (hopefully) small sections, but for now, I’ve completed six chapters, and my total word count
is a little over 21,000. Part One, as I’ve mentioned before, will probably be called “Baseballs in the News.”

Part Two is going to focus on historical and factual stuff. I’ve recently been digging through some OLD newspaper articles — here’s where I need your help — and I found an advertisement from 1870 for a “red dead ball.” I might end up quoting part of this ad in the book, but there’s one word that I can’t decipher. Can anyone figure out what it says? I’ve put red asterisks at the beginning and end of the line, and I’ve underlined the mysterious word. Here it is:


Cool, huh?

As far as I can tell, the whole line reads as follows: “One of the merits of the RED DEAD BALL is the ???? which is a great benefit to players on a sunny day.”

Am I right about that? What’s the mystery word?

By the way, do you remember all the juiced ball theories in 1998 when McGwire and Sosa were going nuts? Or in 1987 when there was an inexplicable surge in the number of home runs? Well, guess what. The juiced ball debate goes back a long, long way. I’m talking back into the 1870s. Maybe even earlier. I still have a lot of research to do, and you wouldn’t believe the stuff I’ve already found. Some of it is hilarious, like the language that writers used back in the old days. For example, they sometimes referred to pitchers as “slabsmen” and “moundsmen.” Ninety years ago a pitchers’ duel was described as “brilliant moundsmanship.” Gotta love it.

Here are my previous book updates in case you missed them:


One final note…

I’ve been compiling a list of people who want to be notified when the book comes out, so if you’re interested, let me know.


  1. yankeekid

    That would be a really cool quote if you can find out what it is but to me it kinda looks like “Coins” Or “Ruins” but they woudn’t make sense.
    P.S.I would Like To Be Notified when The Book Comes Out, Its gonna be a great one!

  2. zackhample

    Ohmygod, I think you’re right. Why didn’t I think of that? Let’s see if other people agree. I hope people still enjoy the entry even if the mystery has already been solved.

    I was thinking the same thing. It looks like there’s a lowercase “i” in there, but I think Erik nailed it. I’ll let you know about the book when it comes out, but of course that’s gonna be a long time from now.

  3. yankeekid

    Erik- Wow. How did you get it? It fits right in so Perfectly!
    And Zack It’s ok I can wait.

  4. baseballexperiences

    i leave for arizona tommorow, three dbacks games, two against the joke of the n.l. east, no not the nationals, the ny team, and 1 against the 2009 NL. champs dodgers. I hope they use the ball from the previous post with the stamp on it. and do u know when i can reserve the book @ Borders? lol

  5. dbacks1985

    “One of the merits of THE RED BALL is the color, which is a great benefit to players on a sunny day, thereby getting rid of the objectionable chilling whiteness of the ordinary ball.”

  6. nymetsgrrl94

    I was also interested in the fact that pitcher’s duels were so rare. But I read about it in a cool book about catchers. (if anybody reading the comments wants to read the book, it’s called Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became An American Folk Hero. It’s really good)
    But anyway, I’m really excited about your book and have become really interested in the history and stuff, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

  7. zackhample

    Does this mean you want to be added to the official notification list? Have a GREAT time on your trip. Can’t wait to hear about it.

    Wow. I was wondering what the rest of it said. But are you sure about the word “chilling”? Hmm. That’s a tough one.


    Glad to hear it. I’ll add you to the almighty list. :-)

  8. Graham

    Add me to the list baby…
    I was just vacationing with the family in San Diego. I went to Petco Park for a Padres/Braves game. At the end of the game I went near the exit where the umpire crew was leaving the field. The plate umpire saw my glove held up and tossed me the only game ball he had left. Career snagged ball #2. I would never have thought of hitting up the plate umpire if it wasn’t for your blog.

  9. dbacks1985

    Zack, I am fairly certain of the word “chilling.” I used to use microfiche all the time when writing my college reports on old nuclear treaties and such, and I got pretty adept at reading the old newsprint. Even so, since it’s after your red asterisk there, I guess you’re not planning on using it anyway.

  10. dbacks1985

    No, I take it back: I ran it past a program I have to enhance the print and magnify it from your photo, and the phrase is actually “the objectionable DAZZLING whiteness of the ordinary ball.”
    Hope this helps!

  11. dbacks1985

    We (welcome?) the attention of Dealers and Clubs
    TO THE
    which has been used by all the
    throughout the country this past summer. One of the merits of
    is the color which is a great benefit to players on a sunny day, thereby getting rid of the objectionable dazzling whiteness of the ordinary ball.

  12. dbacks1985

    I can also confirm that the phrase is the “DAZZLING whiteness” – a subsequent search of my own research materials (AKA some good books!), turned up this:
    Back in 1870, Peck & Snyder offered a red ball, “thereby getting rid of the objectionable dazzling whiteness of the ordinary ball which bothers fielders and Batsmen on a Sunny day.” – “The Way Baseball Works” by Dan Gutman, Tim McCarver, and the NBHOF (1996) p. 12.

  13. figgi4


    Don’t know about the word…How are you taking people on “The List”? Because if it’s by email I’d like to use a different email than the one my account’s under…


    Zack how many cows are killed every year tp get enough rawhide for Rawlings to make their baseballs?

  15. padreleigh

    Hey Zack…

    About the ribs…YES!! It freaking hurts too. Two on my right side. X ray showed small cracks. Hairline type stuff. The muscles are all jacked up too. I couldn’t freaking believe it. I’ve had all the random injuries from snagging with the banging of knees on the cup holders, hitting your leg on a seat, twisting an ankle etc. I even got hit once on the foot by a bp homer, but I’ve never got this much hurt before. It hurt so bad when the guy ran into me. It was out on the beach and I went straight down. I couldn’t breathe for a minute. The security guard wanted me to go home and/or to the hospital, but I just went and sat down and rested. The doc just said to take it easy and they will heal. I can’t really bend over without it hurting. It even hurts lying in bed and tossing and turning, etc. My glove side is the left side, thank God, so I’ve gone to the last two bp’s and just stayed in one place. No running around, diving, bending. We don’t have any home games for about 10 days so we’ll see how I feel then. I immediately thought of you when I saw the xrays. What’s next for me? Getting hit in the nose by a bp homer? Ha ha. I’ve never had that happen, knock on wood, and don’t want it to. Good luck on your book writing. It sounds like it’s going to be a good one. Oh yeah, got a bunch of PCL balls in Vegas last weekend at Cashman Field. They don’t count of course. Oh yeah, it was also very painful to see ALL THE 2008 METS COMMEMORATIVES people were grabbing in BP while I was injured and stationary. I got a 2009 commemorative earlier this year, but I stilll need the 2008 one. Maybe next year I guess. Here’s to hoping no one else gets injured this year.


  16. redsfan101

    Wow Zack, sounds VERY cool. I would like to be contacted when the book is out. How do you contact me? Email? Let me know

    Otherwise, I was looking at it and my first thought was Coins. That wouldn’t make sense though! Hmm I’ll keep looking

  17. redsfan101

    I found this:

    The ball itself

    Before 1920, it was very common for a baseball to be in play for over 100 pitches, as in cricket. A ball would be used until it started to unravel. The early baseball leagues were very cost-conscious, so fans would have to throw back balls that had been hit into the stands. The longer the ball was in use the softer it would become, and hitting a heavily-used, softer ball for distance is much more difficult than hitting a new, harder one. There is also the argument that the ball itself was softer to begin with, making home runs less likely.

    Here is the link:

    Hope this helped!


    Hey Zack just wanted to let you know i saw an artical about you in the USA Today a few days ago and didnt know if you were aware of it or not because you havent blogged about it. I think i may still have the article so let me know if you want it.
    – Michael

  19. zackhample

    Consider yourself added. Nice job with the ump ball. Glad to have helped.

    Dazzling job with all the decoding. Thank you so much!

    It’s just an email list. That’s how I plan to notify everyone.

    The cows aren’t killed for baseballs; they’re killed for all the beef-eaters.

    Jeez. There’s not much you can do except take it easy and wait for it to heal on its own. What happened (or what did you do) to the guy who ran into you?

    Yup, just email. Thanks for the ball-related info you posted.

    Thanks for weighing in.

    MIKE G.-
    Good to hear from you! I just added you to the list.

    Thanks, but I’ve actually seen the piece, and I’m planning to blog about it later this evening, along with a couple other recent articles.

  20. dbacks1985

    Always happy to help, Zack. I used to be an assistant researcher for my Congressman’s office and a human spellchecker/editor for the kids at my college. If I can ever be of other assistance, I hope you will contact me.
    – Andrew M.

  21. royalsfreak

    Zack, I believe it’s the word color, but I could be wrong. Either way, it’s pretty cool. Snag on!

  22. zackhample

    Wow. Thanks for the offer. I just might end up firing a few more questions your way at some point.

    Yup, sure is. Somehow I didn’t think of it when I was first reading it. Thanks

    Thanks. There’s been some discussion about it (see above) and you are correct.

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