Excerpt from Measures for Progress

Dr. Briggs was given a bad moment or two over an incident during the rubber crisis. Early in 1945, the very active Senate Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee) called on him to explain how a study he made in the bouncing characteristics of golf balls and baseballs could possibly contribute to the war effort. The Committee pointed to a paper he had just published, wonderfully entitled: "Methods for measuring the coefficient of restitution and the spin of a ball."

Dr. Briggs explained and the committee subsided. Prodded to conserve rubber, even in miniscule amounts, the Services of Supply had asked the bureau about a substitute material being used in the baseballs it was supplying recreation centers at training camps. Extending an investigation he had made of golf balls in an idle hour before the war, Dr. Briggs took on the SOS request himself. The work, he reported to the committee, had been done by a high school boy He had merely made the analyses, with assistance from Dr. Dryden and Dr. Buckingham on the theoretical considerations.

In baseballs with balata cork centers (made official in the major leagues in 1943), the coefficient of restitution or liveliness of the ball, Dr. Briggs found, was measurably reduced over that of the prewar rubber-cushioned cork center (official in 1938). The coefficient was still lower in baseballs with reclaimed rubber centers. "A hard-hit fly ball with a 1943 center," Dr. Briggs reported, "might be expected to fall about 30 feet shorter than the prewar ball hit under the same conditions." It was an important finding, contributing to the peace of mind not only of the professionals but of the sluggers in the (military) training camps.

--Excerpted from: Rexmond C. Cochrane, Measures for Progress (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1966), p. 413.

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Created July 23, 2013, Updated July 30, 2013