Leather is apparent in our everyday lives and we may not even know it. Sports, for example, that we watch everyday, use leather. At first thought, it would seem unusual that sports would use leather because it’s often thought of as a clothing accessory or item. Sports players wouldn’t want to wear leather!
However, leather is actually used in the sports items themselves. For example, it’s used on the actual baseball and football. Leather is perfect for this use because of its many traits like durability and more.
Dating back to the mid 1800’s, the sport has been using leather to craft the ball. At first most of the balls were handmade and made from different materials. One of the original designs had a rubber core from old, melted shoes and a leather outside, haphazardly stitched together.
As time went on and the sport became more standardized, the ball design did too. In 1910, a cork center design was introduced with stronger yarn to stitch the leather together. Throughout the 1920’s, a few changes were made to the core of the ball making it both cork and rubber.
By 1934, both the National League and American League came to final standardized ball design. This design was a cushion cork center, wrapped in yarn and a rubber cement coating. Then two more yarn wrappings and covered with a horsehide.
Few changes were made after this final, standardized ball was agreed upon. One of the biggest adjustments was changing the horsehide to cowhide in 1974.
Baseball uses cowhide or horsehide for the outside of the balls to have a strong cover over the core. The leather is a durable material that can take being hit over and over. It’s also not too heavy or hard, making it a perfect material for a baseball.
In addition to baseball using leather to cover the balls, the sport uses leather for the gloves or mitts that the players wear. The mitts or gloves are fashioned from leather because it’s a durable material that will protect the player’s hand and skin from getting hurt when catching a ball.
Ball speeds can be very high when a player goes to catch it, so their hand needs to be protected. A leather glove provides a layer of protection, but is also lightweight enough for the player to easily carry and use.
Baseball uses leather for a few different things in the sport. That’s because leather is durable and lightweight making it the perfect material.
The oldest football in existence which dates back to roughly 1550 was made from animal hide, possibly deer, and a pig’s bladder. Footballs were originally made from inflated pig bladders that were covered with animal hide. This method gave rise to the ball’s nickname, “the pigskin.”
The modern day American football design involves two leather panels stitched together and bringing the panels together at a point. The leather that is used is tanned to a natural brown color and given a tacky feel so it’s easier to catch.
The other design elements of the football vary amongst the different leagues. These include the white stripe on either end of the ball and whether it goes all the way around the ball. However, all the balls use a leather cover and are pointed on either end for easier passing.
Similar to baseball, American football uses leather to craft the ball because it’s a durable material that will withstand several games and lots of use. It's also lightweight making it ideal for players to carry and pass.
Traditionally, the soccer ball was crafted with a leather cover and bladder inside to inflate with air. However, over the years the ball was shifted from a real leather cover to synthetic leather.
Today, soccer balls are made with a synthetic leather cover or leather covered with polyurethane. This design was adopted in the 1970’s because it was found that the real leather cover did not work well in wet conditions. The leather was not water resistant and it would get heavy if it got wet. So they started coating the ball with polyurethane making the ball water resistant and easier to play with.
Sometimes soccer balls are also made with a pvc outer cover. This makes the ball durable, but offers less feel for the ball and harder. Making them less ideal for play.
Once again, leather is used to make the ball durable and lightweight. It also gives the player a better feel for the ball making it easier and more ideal to play with.
Baseball, American football and soccer are some of the most played sports in the nation and worldwide. The fact that leather is used to craft the balls of these sports speaks to the nature of the material. It’s durable, long-lasting and lightweight. Making it perfect for a ball that is used over and over again. Also, making it perfect for our Texas Saddlery belts, accessories, saddles and more!