Who Invented the Wiffle Ball?

In 1953, David L. Mullaney was bankrupt and out of a job, but he still pretended to go to the office everyday so that his 12-year-old son, David, Jr., wouldn't worry. One hot August night, he came home and sat on the porch watching his son and some friends struggling to pitch a curve with a perforated golf ball they were using because there had been too many broken windows that summer. Crack! An idea came like a home run hit with bases loaded.

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It took a number of samples, but Mullaney eventually came up with a lightweight plastic ball that had eight oblong perforations. He took a bet on his invention, mortgaged the family home and started selling the ball out of the back of his station wagon. When Woolworth's picked up the toy in 1954, an icon of American ingenuity was born.

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Today, Wiffle Ball, Inc. is still a family business and is helmed by Mullaney's grandson, David J. Mullaney. The company employs between 15 and 20 workers in the same factory that's been used to produce the Wiffle Ball and bat since 1959. "We enjoy what we are doing," he told businessnewsdaily.com. "It is a great opportunity to come to work every day with my dad [David A. Mullany] and my brother [Stephen Mullany]. We haven't had any interest in selling because we are having too much fun." They have turned down many opportunities to sell to bigger toy manufacturers.

Although the company has experimented with a few other products, the core of the business has always been the Wiffle Ball. "A ball today is virtually the same as one you bought 40 years ago," says Mullaney. "We have decided that we should stick with what works."

As for the competition posed by electronic toys and video games? As Mullaney says, "There is only so long you can sit indoors exercising your thumbs."

Video: Courtesy of TheWallStreetJournal.com.

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