We received big news from USA Sports Marketing two weeks ago that marked the end of a long-held request and recommendation to Rawlings and MLB by BigLeagueBaseballs.com: Bring back the playoff game balls.
Well, nearly a dozen years since the last special event postseason ball was used at Turner Field in Atlanta, Major League Baseball has brought it back, and with some changes. We were fortunate to see a picture of the new ball, but we kept our lips sealed until we could get better pics (we may or may not have leaked an image in the Big League Baseballs forum – another reason to sign up!). The new ball made its debut tonight in the St. Louis Cardinals – Atlanta Braves one game WildCard playoff, and it launched in the American League in the Texas Rangers-Baltimore Orioles Wild Card Game (in the 8th inning as I write this).
A little official MLB Postseason game ball history first:
Postseason play in the Majors saw a dramatic change in 1994, with the addition of two playoff teams per league and the resulting NL and AL League Division Series (though it wasn’t truly implemented until 1995 due to the ’94 Baseball Strike). National League and American League Division Series and League Championship Series game balls were born:
Official Rawlings Postseason balls were common for the most part in 1995 and 1996, though multiple misprints and double versions for certain series exist, such as these two 1996 NLDS balls (we’re still not positive which is the official on field ball, if not both – and if each one was used for one of the two NL Division Series). The same two varieties exist for the 1996 ALDS. Some misprints have even also been discovered, as you’ll see with the 1997 “Amercian League” Championship Series baseball above – note the typo on the location of the “I”. There is also a mispinrt 1997 ALDS with the same error, both are pictured in the Miscellaneous Misprints and Prototypes gallery of the hallowed Museum of Baseballs.
These balls are much more scarce from 1998-1999, with some 1999s still eluding even the most fervent collectors. (I myself still need the 1999 National League Division Series Game Ball, and I’m willing to pay a nice sum if any of our readers has one to spare: email us here.)
Introducing your new 2012 Rawlings MLB Postseason Game Ball:
The 1999 NLCS ball was technically the last AL/NL ball ever used. Although there was no real reason for Postseason balls to disappear, we can likely it tie to the removal of individual League President positions for the American and National Leagues. Starting in 2000, as baseballs collectors know, the Big Leagues switched to the current universal league ball, with Selig’s commissioner stamp and signature. So it’s only fitting that, with the expansion of MLB playoffs from four to five teams per league, we once again see the addition of a Postseason game ball. Behold:
In the past I’ve argued that just because you couldn’t stamp a league president signature on the ball, doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a special ball just for postseason play, and use the typical Selig Commissioner signature and MLB league stamping. Well this is exactly what they’ve done. The difference is for one, instead of “*OFFICIAL* – MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL” these are more inline with All-Star Game and World Series text and stamping. We now have “*OFFICIAL BALL* – 2012 POSTSEASON .” Makes us think we’ll see a new version every year – which we will gladly make space for on the shelves of our commemorative game ball displays.
I must speculate once again, that perhaps someone in MLB front offices or at Rawlings is listening to the fans and reading our site (hey it’s possible, we’re important too right?). Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed using silver stamping on such a ball as well, somewhere within this site. I’m just saying, if it’s a success, maybe a little kickback our way – how about a dozen of these, new in box, to give away to our dedicated forum members, Mr. Selig and Mr. Rawlings? Right. I’ll try to track down that reference for proof.
According to the original official company rending, the ink is “cool gray.” I dig that. Essentially silver – a first for an MLB ball since the 2000 Millennium Ball and the ill-fated silver-sparkle ink for several Stadium Inaugural Game/Season balls. The picture does not so the ball justice. We’ll have better images once we receive a few of these balls. In the meantime, ballhawks, collectors, autograph seekers and fans in general now have all the more reason to snag a ball in this year’s playoff games. And if you want a pearl white version, new in box, please support the guys who support us and pick one up from Shop USA Sports for only $17.95!