I had almost as much fun playing wiffle ball as a kid as I did little league. I was completely into playing baseball with friends or for years in leagues until I was 16. In my front yard, we would play wiffle ball until dark. If only one friend was over that was enough… we could still play. Hit it over the house, a home run…hitting a window, a double, in the creek a triple… etc.
You didn’t have to worry about breaking a window or knocking your buddy out while pitching as fast as you could. You would learn how to grip it and you could make it curve, rise, or sink a ridiculous amount. We would play for hours until night or until the ball was stuck on the roof or in a tree.
In the late 70s and 80s it was a fun alternative to playing baseball when not enough friends were around or you had to play in a neighborhood full of houses with nice big windows.
In 1953, David N. Mullany was watching his 12-year-old son and some friends playing a baseball-like game with a perforated plastic golf ball and a broomstick in their backyard. The boys tried throwing curveballs and sliders but with no success. They couldn’t use a baseball because of the trail of broken windows and upset neighbors.
Mullany, who had been a semipro pitcher himself, knew all too well what thousands of Little Leaguers have had to painfully learn. Nothing shreds a young arm quite as effectively as throwing breaking balls. Mullany set about trying to save the boys’ shoulders and elbows by creating a ball that would curve and bend on its own.
He tried a hard plastic ball that served as packaging for Coty perfume. After having the boys experiment with various designs, Mullany hit on the Wiffle Ball we now know and love.
Mullany’s son and his friends referred to strikeouts as “whiffs.” Since the new invention made knee-buckling curveballs a breeze to throw, pitchers started racking up the strikeouts. Mullany named the product the Wiffle Ball to honor its strikeout-friendly breaks.
When they started to advertise them they would use old photographs of MLB players. The Mullanys later explained in interviews that doing actual photo shoots with the players would have been too pricey, so they just negotiated with players’ agents and then used any old photograph.
The slots on one side make the ball curve and rise. Just like a real baseball…the more scuffs a ball has the more it can curve. They have Wiffle Ball leagues now where players play competitively.