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This day in baseball: Shibe’s stance on lively baseballs

On June 5, 1920, in the midst of an explosion in the number of home runs being hit around the league, Philadelphia Athletics vice president Tom Shibe insisted that baseballs were not “livelier” that season and that the increase in round trippers could be attributed to the elimination of the spitball. Shibe also happened to be part owner of the Reach Baseball Company, which manufactured the league’s game balls. The only changes, Shibe would insist, consisted only of “improvements in the method of manufacture.”

Later, others would state that while Shibe may have truly believed his stance, it was those basic improvements to the baseball that likely had the unintended side effect of making it more elastic. In 1936, Jim Nasium would state, “The funny thing about it was that Tom Shibe, working only to improve the quality of the ball and make it more durable, never realized the effect that this would have on the playing of the game.”

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