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What Happens When You CT-Scan a Baseball?

In the 1907 World Series, the Detroit Tigers tried to defeat the Chicago Cubs by surreptitiously using an unsanctioned baseball. Their attempts were unsuccessful, and the Cubs went on to win the World Series. Despite their victory, there has always been speculation of the ball’s anatomy, and whether or not it had been altered. Cubs fanatic and CEO of Chicago’s Harry Caray’s restaurants, Grant DePorter wanted to get to the bottom of this. So, he went to the University of Chicago Medical Center to have the ball CT-scanned.

This wasn’t the first time that the Medical Center’s radiology department had scanned a Cubs’ ball. Richard Heller, MD, MBA, one of the radiologists involved with the scanning, has also taken images of balls from the Cubs’ 1945 World Series and the White Sox’ 2005 World Series. However, when Heller and colleague Kate Feinstein, MD, examined the 1907 ball, they noticed something very unusual. It didn’t have a core.

All baseballs manufactured during this period contain a radiodense white core. This ball is missing the cork or rubber that is found in most balls from this era. Instead, its insides consist of a “mush” material.

According to Dave Wiley, president of McCrone Associates, a laboratory that conducts microanalysis of matter, the “mush” was most likely a plant leaf.

Over the years, DePorter has requested his other Cubs baseballs to be CT-scanned, however this is the first time that a ball was found to be invalid.

 

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