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Spalding is an American sports equipment manufacturing company founded by Albert Spalding in Chicago, Illinois, in 1876. It is now headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Spalding currently focuses on basketball, mainly producing balls but also commercializing hoops, rims, nets and ball pump needles. Softballs are commercialized through its subsidiary Dudley Sports.
The company was founded in 1876 when Albert Spalding was a pitcher and manager of a baseball team in Chicago, the Chicago White Stockings. The company standardized early baseballs and developed the modern baseball bat with the bulge at its apex. In 1892, Spalding acquired Wright & Ditson and A. J. Reach, both rival sporting goods companies.
In 1893, A.G. Spalding & Brothers purchased the Lamb Knitting Machine Company located in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts and renamed it the Lamb Manufacturing Company. It used this purchase to consolidate its skate manufactory from Newark and its gymnasium goods manufactory from Philadelphia to the Chicopee plant. Lamb, primarily engaged in manufacturing knitting machines, rifles, and egg-beaters, had been fulfilling a contract since 1890 to produce the Credenda bicycle wheel for Spalding. Spalding chose Chicopee because it was the home of the Overman Wheel Company, Spalding acted as their distributor in the Western USA, and Overman contracted with Lamb to make wheels for its lower-end products.
The Spalding "League Ball" was adopted by the National League and American Association of Professional Base Ball Clubs for the seasons of 1892-1896 and used by the National League since 1880. It was manufactured by A. G. Spalding & Bros., Chicago, New York & Philadelphia and sold for $1.50 in 1896.
A Spalding division, "Spalding's Athletic Library", printed and commercialized several sports publications such as almanacs, guides, rule books, "how to", and handbooks from 1892 . to 1941 . under the name Spalding Athletic Library on many different sports. Sports covered include American football, athletics (track and field, cross country running), badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, canoeing, croquet, fencing, golf, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, ice skating, lacrosse, polo, roller hockey, soccer, swimming, tennis, wrestling. Some of the rules published included NCAA Rules and Guides, and the Official Rules of the AAU.
Production of bicycles continued at the Chicopee plant through the latter part of the 19th century, but in 1899 A.G. Ben Spalding sold its bicycle division to a massive trust called the American Bicycle Company which controlled 65% of the bicycle business in the US.
From the early 1930s through the mid-1940s, Spalding produced the official game pucks for the National Hockey League. Spalding produced the well-known "Spaldeen" high-bounce rubber ball, said to be a re-use of defective tennis ball cores, that was sold to city children from 1949. In baseball, Spalding manufactured the official ball of the major leagues through the 1976 season, using the Reach brand on American League balls and the Spalding trademark on National League balls. Since 1977 the official ball has been made by Rawlings.
Spalding became a division of the Russell Corporation in 2003. However, that deal did not encompass Spalding's golf operations, which included the Top-Flite, Ben Hogan and Strata brands, which were eventually bought by Callaway later the same year.
Spalding developed its first basketball in 1894 based on the design of a baseball, and is currently a leading producer. Spalding was the official ball supplier to the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1983 to the 2019-20 season, when the league signed a partnership with Wilson. The company also provided the official ball of the Arena Football League, an indoor American football league until its 2019 shutdown. The company was also one of the first to use high-profile athletes to endorse its products when tennis player Pancho Gonzales was signed to an exclusive endorsement contract in 1951.
In 2006, Spalding and the NBA announced that they would create a new NBA Official Game Ball for the 2006-07 NBA season, with interlocking segments and made with a synthetic material instead of leather. However, many NBA players complained that the new composite ball became extremely slick after use, wouldn't bounce as high and bounced awkwardly off the rim and backboard and cut their fingers. As a result, the NBA reverted to the old leather balls (with the old eight-panel pattern) on January 1, 2007.