HISTORY OF WIFFLE®BALL INC.
Dear Wiffle® Enthusiast,
We don't have a formal "media packet" with company information but my brother Steve and I have taken some time to put together some information about our company and the history behind the WIFFFLE® perforated plastic ball.
Let's start with some background on our grandfather, David N. Mullany, who started the company. He was born in Hatfield, MA around 1908. Growing up on a tobacco farm along the Connecticut River he was always involved in sports, especially baseball, at which he excelled.
David N. played baseball all through school and upon graduation from High School decided to attend the University of Connecticut, which was primarily, an agricultural college at that point. He played baseball at UCONN and I believe graduated in 1929 or 1930 with a degree in business. (He had decided that farming was not for him and switched over to the fledgling business school.)
Upon graduation (remember now, it was during the Depression) he moved to Bridgeport, CT to look for work. Bridgeport was a busy industrial city in Southern Connecticut at the time and his best bet for employment. When not looking for employment, he got involved with one of the local baseball leagues that existed at the time. Being a better than average left handed pitcher, he was more successful at finding a spot on a ball team than finding work. After several months of pretty successful baseball, but unsuccessful job hunting, he was running out of money for living expenses and decided that it was time to head back to Hatfield, MA and back to the farm.
While standing on the corner, waiting for the bus back to MA, he was approached by a fellow and was asked "Are you Dave Mullany?" to which he responded yes. The fellow asked where he was going and was told, "back home to Hatfield." To which the stranger responded "Oh no you're not. You've got a job starting Monday at McKesson & Robbins Pharmaceuticals (a patent medicine manufacturer that was once headquartered here in CT) and by the way, you're also on the company baseball team." I should point out that, at that time, most of the major industrial corporations fielded athletic teams. Players had to work for the company whose team they played for and were also, I believe, paid for playing on the team. Apparently, all the baseball he played while looking for work paid off and his pitching ability caught the eye of the manager of McKesson's baseball team.
Fast forward about 20 years or so…
In the very late 1940's David N., now a purchasing agent with McKesson and married with a family, met up with a fellow who had a formula for one of the very first (if not THE first) liquid car polishes. Always wanting to be "his own boss" he left McKesson. He and his partner went into business manufacturing and marketing the polish all across the company and by all accounts was a good product and were doing fairly well with it.
One season, a sales representative engaged in a program to sell a huge amount of product but failed to inform management of the details of the deal. The deal put them into a cash crunch and the company was forced to liquidate.
Now, out of work, 45 years old and having invested a substantial amount of savings into the now defunct car polish operation, David N. was scrambling looking for work.
Times were a bit different then. People didn't switch jobs as frequently as they do today and virtually no one was going to hire a 45-year-old as a "new" employee. David N. understood the reality of the situation and wasn't expecting to be able to land a position with another company very quickly. He cashed in a life insurance policy which netted him, I believe he said, about twenty five hundred dollars. Each Friday, he would give our grandmother money to buy groceries and pay the household bills. (In fact, our grandfather never told our grandmother that he was out of work!)
It was summertime and every afternoon, upon returning from his job search, he would see his son, David A. Mullany (he was 12 or 13 at the time) and his neighborhood buddies playing a game in the backyard. It was, he was amazed to find out, the same game that they had been playing earlier in the day when he left "for work".
David A. and his pals were the younger guys in the neighborhood and had been kicked off all the local ball fields by the older kids. Undeterred, they resorted to tennis ball in the kids' backyards. One by one, parents put a stop to the tennis ball games due to a rash of broken windows and dented siding on the houses. The last straw came after a near miss when a tennis ball sailed through the outstretched arms of one mom who was out hanging laundry on the line.
It looked like the end of any sort of baseball for the guys. Dad and his buddies ended up at the last house in the neighborhood undamaged by their games - our grandparents' place. David A., knew that baseball was definitely out and that a tennis ball bouncing off the side of the house was NOT going to fly either. He rummaged around the garage and found a plastic golf ball - a relatively new item in the early 1950's - and figured he'd give that a try.
Things were looking up for the guys. The games with the practice golf ball were a success! They didn't need any equipment other than the ball and a broom handle for a bat. As few as 2 players could have a very competitive game and best of all there were no broken windows, no dented siding and even better, no unhappy parents!
There was one down side to the game. At the end of the day, David A. and his buddies ended up with sore arms from trying to throw a curveball with the little plastic golf ball David N., remember - he was a semi pro pitcher - knew that firing curveballs all day wasn't good for 12 year old arms.
After talking with dad, gramp thought that maybe he could help. Having been a purchasing agent for many years, he had many contacts in industrial circles. Coty perfume, at the time, was packaging perfume bottles inside a hollow sphere that was able to pop apart. The spheres worked much like the little plastic eggs you see around Easter time. He obtained some of the clip together plastic balls. They sat at the kitchen table cutting out various designs in the plastic halves. Then they'd put various combinations of halves back together and the next day dad would take them outside and try them out. After a couple of days, it was apparent which design worked far better than the rest. The ball that had eight oblong holes on one half and no holes on the other half was definitely a success. The ball would curve, with control. David A. could throw curves, sinkers and risers with very little effort! Because the ball was light, it wouldn't travel too far or damage property.
David N. - remember he still had no job - thought that if dad and his friends enjoyed the game so much, other kids probably would also. He took out a second mortgage on his house, borrowed from friends and went ahead with forming a new toy company. Ah, but what to call the product. Mullany-ball didn't have much of a ring to it and gramp wasn't an egomaniac. He was pretty low key and shied away from the spotlight and publicity. He talked some more with dad and asked what they called the game they played. Dad said one word "Wiffle". The game they played was a pitchers duel with lots of strikeouts. In dads' neighborhood, when you took a swing and missed, you whiffed! So it was decided, they'd call the product a "WIFFLE" ball. (no "h" would mean one less letter they'd have to pay for on the sign). That's the brand name and federally registered trademark that we use today.
From there, David N. put in plenty of long days and nights getting the company going. He handled sales calls, production issues and all sorts of other day to day tasks that were needed. Our dad David A. was right along side helping out wherever he could and once he was old enough, came into the business full time and is today the president of The Wiffle Ball, Inc.
Our grandfather passed away in 1990. My brother Stephen and I were just getting into the business at that time and were lucky enough to get the chance to work with him a bit before he died. Today, we work with our dad on a daily basis. We continue to manufacture and package our products 100% in the USA.
We still focus on the same things that got us to where we are today; producing the highest quality perforated plastic ball and plastic bat available. We back it up with professional service and on time deliveries to our customers. WIFFLE® offers more play value than any other competing product. Our brand name and federally registered trademark, WIFFLE® has grown to become the one of the most recognized in the industry and is synonymous with backyard fun.
We hope you've enjoyed reading this history of the WIFFLE® ball and how we got started. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
We thank you for your interest.
David J. & Stephen A. Mullany
Copyright 2003 - The Wiffle Ball, Inc.
The Wiffle Ball, Inc.
P.O. Box 193
"WIFFLE", the Wiffle Certification Mark and the image of the ball are registered trademarks owned by The Wiffle Ball Inc, Inc.
and are used with their expressed written permission.