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|c. 1860s Early “Townball” Baseball
Dimensions: 2 3/8 inch diameter, 7 inch circumference, 2.5 oz in weight. Today's baseball by standard is larger; 9 inch circumference, weighing 5 oz.
This ball is an early rare ‘gusset’ (H-pattern stitching) style ball that was used in an early version of baseball called “townball”. The game of townball was played with a softer ball made of four brown leather pieces and often filled with rags or yarn. In townball you could throw the ball at the runner to get him out. This was known as "soaking" the runner. Townball was mostly popular in the North East. The rules of townball stated “The Ball must weigh not less than two, nor more than two and three-quarters ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than six and a half, nor more than eight and a half inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather.”
By the 1850s townball was well on its way out, being replaced by baseball rules. By the end of the civil war baseball had replaced townball. It is possible that this ball was used in the 1850s.
Since the early baseballs or townballs were homemade (typically with the help of a cobbler to cover the ball), you can sometimes see the prior use of the leather cover. The light removed stitching on this baseball is likely from an old shoe/boot.
In the 1860s the balls used were usually dark 'lemon peel' style, or the much rarer 'gusset' style. Today's figure eight style ball was rarely used. Baseball bats were very large and long. There were no gloves or catcher's equipment.
By the 1870s the modern “figure eight” design became more common, and baseballs were of a similar size and weight as a modern day baseball. The lemon-peel and other various stitch patterns were becoming obsolete and its replacement, the "figure eight," began to see regular use.