Case Closed? Two varieties of same Reach AL Cronin Baseballs found

Take another look at the Official Reach American League Baseballs in your collection that have the AL President Joseph (Joe) E. Cronin facsimile stamped signature. Chances are, if you’re a collector of vintage baseballs or balls signed MLB teams and Hall of Fame players, you may have a piece of historic, and somewhat controversial memorabilia.

Several years ago BigLeagueBaseballs.com came across what looked like two or three different versions of the same 1960s to ’70s-era Reach Official American League Joe Cronin baseballs. Some have noted that the different shades of colored stamping were simply a result of long-term storage, or exposure to the elements. Even game-use could have caused the slight change in print color. But the sleuths at Big League Baseballs wouldn’t settle for such excuses. We figured then that they were simply produced in different years, and the change in stamping color was intentional. We also hoped it would help date the Cronin baseballs, but could not find any information on the dilemma.

Reach Official American League Cronin Baseball Balls

Three varieties of Reach AL Cronin balls, two on the left from the late 1960s to early '70s that appear to have different colored stamps.

After looking deeper into the matter, we’ve discovered the cause of these ink color differences. They’re actually different baseballs, made by by the same factory operated at that time by the Reach division owned by Spalding. And the differences go beyond the stamping, according to one source. Here’s the evidence, an excerpt from a Sept. 23, 1971 article published by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. It appeared in “The Press Box” column by Frank True, titled Baseballs, Baseballs:

Kuhn To Investigate

Today commissioner Bowie Kuhn has a problem that is a lapful. He’s investigating American League balls that not only are different in resiliency, but aren’t even the same size. Official American League balls are manufactured by the Reach Division of the Spalding Company. All bear the signature of Joe Cronin, president of the American League. But on some balls the ink is blue. On others it is green.

It seems the blue-labeled balls are larger by about one-quarter inch in diameter, have wider stitching, looser covers and don’t go as far when hit. The green-labeled balls are said to go farther when hit, especially in cool weather. The balls are made in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The green ball has glue all over it right under the cover, which is responsible for its greater resiliency.

Numerous pitchers have remarked about the larger size of the blue-labeled balls and Dick Walsh, general manager of the Angels, has asked Kuhn to investigate. What an ideal setup for the home club, which furnishes the baseballs, to run in a batch of blue-labeled balls to the local pitchers, then feed the green-labeled balls to opposing hurlers.

It is incredible that a multi-million-dollar enterprise like baseball can’t control the uniform quality in such a basic piece of equipment as a baseball.  Or maybe the two different types of balls represent an experiment that’s being conducted. If so, would it have done any harm to let the public in on the venture? Would not public participation in such a test have been good public relations?

We’d provide a direct like, but it is not hosted on the newspaper’s website. We’d also provide more convincing pictures of each version of Official Cronin AL ball, but we don’t have better samples. Like fools, some of these baseballs were sold or traded by BigLeagueBaseball contributors before it was realized a few were, in fact, different by design. If there is a reader out there that can provide better photos of each variation of this era of Cronin ball, please send us an email. There’s a big “Thank you” in it for you, and nothing else.

There is no additional information, to the best of our knowledge, as to the results of the “investigation” or any other complaints about the two different baseballs. If there is any information out there we’re not aware of, please let us know.

Are there other vintage baseballs like these that have one or more varieties? Does the Spalding Warren Giles-stamped Official National League baseball of the same time period have a different sized or stamped counterpart? Or perhaps it would be one of the first Charles Feeney-stamped NL balls that would have been constructed differently? We’ve even come across AL President Harridge American League balls and older Reach Cronin balls that appear to have two different shades of blue and green print.  We’ll look into those as well.

In the meantime, feel free to discuss the groundbreaking discovery in the BigLeagueBaseballs.com Forum or respond in the comments section and tell us how much you appreciate BigLeagueBaseballs.com and its mystery solving detective work. Or let us know that nobody cares, if you prefer, and that we should just get back to work.

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A virtual official MLB game baseball museum cataloging the evolution of the Major League Baseball, including vintage and modern Rawlings, Reach and Spalding Official National League and American League Baseballs, and Rawlings Commemorative World Series, All-Star Game and Special Event baseballs.
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