October 8, 2016

"KNUCKLEBALL IN A HURRICANE":

The Magic of That Wiffle Ball Sound (Will Leitch OCT. 7, 2016, NY Times)

Wiffle ball, as described by David J. and Stephen A. Mullany at the Wiffle Ball website, was invented by their grandfather in Connecticut in the summer of 1953. He watched his son (David and Stephen's father) and a friend play a game in the backyard with a plastic golf ball and a broomstick handle. "They had given up on baseball and softball -- not enough players for two teams, not enough space for a field, and too many broken windows," the website says.

Today it's the same ball as in 1953: a plastic ball with eight oblong holes cut out of it, designed to make it twist and curve in the air, unlike an actual baseball. When thrown correctly, it seems to defy the laws of modern physics: It is like a knuckleball in a hurricane.

My sons took to it immediately, and not just because they had no electronics, or choice, really. What struck them most was that, to master a Wiffle ball, you have to conquer nature. Even the person throwing the Wiffle ball has no idea what it's going to do, basically turning it into a plastic drone you operate while blindfolded.

They think it's magic, and they may be right. (Even the Mullanys confess, "We don't know exactly why it works.") This makes the game incredibly difficult, and my children, like most children, deep down want a challenge. Because they want to defeat it.



Posted by at October 8, 2016 8:01 AM

  

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