Wiffle®Ball: New Rules, old players

August 1991 Dallas Morning News By - Anne M. Peterson and Associated Press

WALTHAM, Mass.- Wiffle®Ball is not for kids, just ask the members of the 35 teams from across the country competing in last week’s World Wiffle®Ball Championships. “It's like a religion for some of these guys,” says Rick Ferroli, president of the World Wiffle®Ball Association. “One group in New Jersey set up fields in a park and now everyone in the neighborhood is playing. They really take it seriously.”

Wiffle®Ball, invented in 1953, is remembered by many as a childhood game, with plastic bats and light, hollow balls perforated by holes. Now there are rules, a Wiffle®Ball bat can’t be longer than 38 inches, can't weigh more than 24 ounces and can't be more than two inches in diameter. The first aluminum bats have been authorized by the association will be used in competition this year by the Lakeside Kings, of Granite City, Ill. Team members Jerry Coyle and Thomas Mc Gowan, both 28, developed the bat and have a patent pending. They plan on making it available to other wiffle-ballers after the competition.

The ball is another matter. “If you get a ball right out of the box, it's just not good,” says Mike Palinczar, 19, of Trenton, NJ, who plays for the Trenton Giants. Mr. Palinczar says it is legal, and encouraged, to file or sandpaper the ball to make it twist and dip in flight. But the shape cannot be changed and cracks are limited.

Mr. Ferroli came up with most of the rules for adult Wiffle®Ball when he and seven others set out to form a league in 1977. “Now everybody plays by my rules,” he says. “It's kind of funny, actually, I never wanted to be the Wiffle®Ball guru.”

Each team has as many as five players. On the field, a pitcher, outfielder and a catcher go up against a batter. But there is no base running- the runners are imaginary and advance depending on where the ball is hit. “A lot of guys who were playing softball are playing Wiffle®Ball now because they're big guys and don't have to run.” jokes Mr. Palinczar. But Mr. Ferroli adds another reason to substitute Wiffle®Ball for baseball. “I can remember when I was 12, you could go to Fenway Park for 25 cents. You could get a hot dog for less than that. It was fun. Now to take a date to a game, it can cost more than $50 for tickets and for food and parking. It's an inexpensive way to have fun.

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