Manufacturer - Wilson
Wilson sporting goods traces its roots to the Les and John company, a slaughter house that began using animal byproducts to manufacture products such as tennis racket strings and surgical sutures. In 1915, Thomas E. Wilson became president and renamed the company the Thomas E. Wilson Co. About 1918 the company struck a deal to supply the Chicago Cubs and White Sox with their official uniforms. In 1922, it introduced the Ray Schalk catcher's mitt. Also, about 1922 it struck a 10 year deal with the Pacific Coast League to be their supplier of baseballs. In 1925, it was renamed the Wilson-Western Sporting Goods Company. About 1927, Wilson introduced a new cursive block letter logo which survives to this day. In 1931 it renamed itself Wilson Sporting Goods Company, the name it retains to this day. After World War II ended in 1945, Ted Williams became a member of the company's advisory staff. In 1964, Wilson opened its first overseas plant, a baseball manufacturing facility in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Manufacturer - Goldsmith, MacGregor, Brunswick
In 1869, Philip Goldsmith and his wife opened a retail store in Covington, Kentucky selling dry goods and novelties. Goldsmith soon became partners with Wolf Fletcher, a nearby toy shop owner. The pair began making baseballs in 1875 from leftover doll materials. Fletcher operated at 714 Madison Avenue in Covington for a number of years and would receive a patent for his baseball manufacturing machine in 1876. One story said that in 1882, the company was turning out 75 to 100 dozen dolls and 50 gross of baseballs every day. The company did well until Goldsmith passed away in 1894 – drowning during a family vacation in Wisconsin. His five sons took over after his death, moved the company across the Ohio River to Cincinnati, and continued to grow the business.
MacGregor's origin can be traced back to immigrants from England who settled in Dayton, Ohio and established a shoe making business. In 1874, John McGregor joined as a business partner. By 1897, in addition to being in the shoe making business, Crawford, McGregor & Canby Co of Dayton made its first golf club. Their primary product continued to be shoe lasts and by 1910 they claimed to be the largest maker of shoe lasts in the world. The depression years hit the company hard. By 1934 it was on the verge of bankruptcy. That same year Edward Canby died. His only son who never had any interest in the family business decided to sell. In 1936, Goldsmith purchased MacGregor. The MacGregor branch of the company continued to manufacture primarily golfing equipment prior to WWII. As WWII drew to a close and in anticipation of a post-war market boom, MacGregor moved its headquarters from Dayton to Cincinnati. A new Cincinnati plant formally opened on April 1, 1946.
After Goldsmith acquired MacGregor, leather athletic goods including gloves and baseballs were still made at the old Goldsmith factory. It wasn't until after the war that the MacGregor Goldsmith brand began to appear on baseballs. By 1950, only one of the 5 original Goldsmith brothers, Hugo Goldsmith, was still alive and active with the company. In 1952, Hugo died. Beginning in 1953, baseballs began to bear the MacGregor brand only. This lasted until 1958 when the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Corporation purchased MacGregor and shifted to the brand name Brunswick MacGregor.
Above- From a 1932 catalog. In addition to the Aero Center ball other models include Rogers Hornsby Official League, Interscholastic League, Amateur League and several different types of Playground Balls.
<--- Left - In 1977, Rawlings takes over the production of the Official National and American League baseballs used in MLB.
Also in 1940, the Major League, Pioneer League, Amateur League, Boys League
Major League History
<--Left 1926 Guaranteed for 27 innings
Below, From a 1930 hardware catalog, the Protex seam indoor outdoor ball --->
---> Right, a 1951 advertisement for the RO model which is still produced today. "...the finest in the field!"
1934 Worth Official League ball, guaranteed to last 36 innings --->
Right - From 1936, the W150C Official League model. No longer advertised as Aero Center, now cushion cork center --->
by Nov 1952, no more Goldsmith --->
<--- 1938, reads "For over ten years major league coaches have depended on this equipment, Why not you?...Wilson makes the official patended cork center baseball that meets the specifications of the National and American leagues one hundred percent. The Wilson official ball used in all championship games by the Pacific Coast League and the American Association for sixteen years offers an extraordinary quality from center to tough alum covered horsehide cover that gives extra innings of top performance in any league."
<--- A 1922 Advertisement from the Saturday Evening Post. Thos. E. Wilson & Co. New York, Chicago, San Francisco. The baseball paragraph reads, " The Wilson "Aero-Center" Official League ball was recently adopted by the Pacific Coast League for a period of ten years. Wilson uniforms, bats, gloves, masks, etc., are used in both Major and Minor Leagues, as well as by hundreds of semi-pro and amateur teams from coast to coast.
<--- 1949, the transition from 'W' models to 'A' models begins. The A1010 is still the most widely used of the Wilson balls today.
^ Above, 1944
<--- 1949-50 A1010 (W150CC), note the long list of leagues supplied by Wison including: Cuban Professional, Professional of Venezuela, Puerto Rico Professional, Negro Texas, Negro American, Evangiline, Southern Negro, Rio Grande and many others.
1940, the 922C with new patented
Stratatex binding --->
<---- A 1927 advertisement for the Aero Center ball from a Belknap Hardware catalog.
<--- By 1953, some models had done away with the Shield style logo on the north panel.
<--- 1937 Worth Official League ball,
Model 912, guaranteed for 27 innings
<---1922, No. 97 still guaranteed to go 18 innings.
<--- June 1952
<--- The 1958 RO still features the shield logo on top and the stylized Rawlings on the sweet spot as in the 1951 ad.
<--- Left, 1944 Official Big Leaguer Model W183
M ajor League History's "The Ball" Museum is the most comprehensive collector's guide for dating and identifying all types of baseballs from the major manufacturers to small independent sporting goods retailers. Comments from collectors who may have more detailed information are always welcome.
The Rawlings Sales Room and Factory in 1902 --->
<--- Left, a 1905 advertisement for the Goldsmith model # 97 ball (so named because it was first produced in 1897). The Official 97 would continue to be Goldsmith's top of the line baseball for more than 50 years.
<--- Left, The 1917 Rawlings Texas League ball. The "Sheild of Protection" logo on the north panel would be the company symbol until 1958. This ball is guaranteed to last 9 innings unless played with while wet or otherwise misused. The official ball of the Texas League in 1907, 1908 and 1909 and the Oklahoma State League in 1912.
<-- From a 1922 Crawford, McGregor & Canby Golf catalog. Note both spellings MacGregor and McGregor used.
<--- At left, a 1937 ad for Rawlings top of the line models including the R1, Official league, 75C Regulation League, R3, Major League and R15, State League. Note the patented "duo-center" markings on the south panel of the R1.
<--- By 1914 Goldsmith was using big name star players to promote their products as in this Walter Johnson advertisement for the No. 97. Walter Johnson the great pitcher says, "The Goldsmith Official League Ball is the best ball I ever pitched."
Manufacturer - Rawlings
In 1887, brothers George and Alfred Rawlings, opened a small sporting goods store in St. Louis. In 1898 Rawlings got into the business of manufacturing sporting goods. It began outfitting the St. Louis Cardinals with team uniforms in 1906 and produced its first professional league baseballs in 1907.
Bill Doak, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, designed the first modern baseball glove in 1919, when he separated the thumb and forefinger with a few strands of rawhide to form a deep pocket. Doak took the idea to Rawlings, which manufactured it and made it a best-seller for more than 25 years.
In 1957, Spalding bought out Rawlings, a deal that would be ruled to be in violation of antitrust laws by the Federal Trade Commission in 1960. Spalding appealed the case in 1963 but lost so ended up selling the company to private investors under the new name of Rawlings Sporting Goods Co.
Now renamed Rawlings Corp., the company has been the official supplier of Major League baseballs since 1977, taking over in that year from Spalding (National League) and Reach (American League).
Founded in 1912 by George Sharp Lannom Jr. as the Lannom Manufacturing Company, it began as a producer of leather horse collars and harnesses. In 1921, Lannom began manufacturing footballs and named the line "Worth". In about 1927, he turned his focus from footballs and basketballs to the production of baseballs and softballs. In 1933 a bigger factory was opened in Tullahoma, Tennessee and by 1939 it was turning out 600 dozen baseballs per day. A new factory was opened in Puerto Rico just prior to World War II and another plant in Ontario, Canada began operations in 1949. Lannom died in 1953. By the time of his death his company had two factories operating in Grinnell, Iowa, a glove factory and a shoe factory, also a Puerto Rico plant, where baseballs were sewed; two factories in Tennessee, one in Tullahoma, baseballs and tannery; and one in Lynchburg, gloves; a glove factory in Gloversville, N.Y., and the baseball plant in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. After Lannom's death, his son-in-law Chuck Parish took over the company's baseball operations. In 1968, the company produced the first aluminum bat and before Parish died in 1975, Worth had gained a majority share of the metal bat market. Compounding Worth's success, the National Collegiate Athletic Association approved aluminum bats for college baseball starting with the 1974 season. In 2007, Worth was aquired by Jarden Corporation and is now a division of Rawlings.
---> By 1960, no more shield style logo. It is replaced by the familiar logo we see today --->
Right, also in 1905, in addition to the #97, Goldsmith produced many other baseballs with colorful names such as the Red Stockings, Rocket, Pic-Nic Ball, Winner and Champion to name a few. --->
---> 1941, the 'W' models would continue until the early 1950s when the 'A' models would take over. Note the north panel, still some balls being produced with the 'discus thrower' style logo --->
Above - From a 1923 Wilson catalog. The Wilson Official League Aero Center ball and the Ray Schalk catcher's mitt. The baseball page reads, "From coast to coast the Wilson "Aero Center" Official Ball is the most talked of ball in the game. The Wilson "Aero Center," known as the "BALANCED Base ball," meets every Major League requirement. An evidence of the merit of this ball was its adoption by the Pacific Coast League for a period of ten years. The following from the letter of President McCarthy of the Pacific Coast Baseball League, advising Thos. E. Wilson & Co of the adoption, is significant: "This decision was reached after every base ball in use in the United States had been investigated, and really indicates that in the opinion of the Directors, your base ball is superior to those of other makes."
--> 1959 Catalog -->
Above - A 1930 advertisement from The Athletic Journal. From 1925 to 1930 the company renamed itself the Wilson Western Sporting Goods Company. This ad also features the Aero Center baseball. The east panel of the ball reads "Guaranteed for 36 Innings". Note that the Thos. E. Wilson logo is no longer present on the south panel.