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Wiffle Ball Celebrates 50th Anniversary

August 11, 2003

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) _ It dips, rises, curves and cuts and is a staple of growing up in America.

Wiffle Ball Inc., based in Shelton, is celebrating its 50th birthday. The Wiffle Ball Hall of Fame has been created on the Internet to mark the anniversary.

Fans can nominate enthusiastic amateur Wiffle Ball players, or their favorite professional ball players they imitated as children playing Wiffle Ball, for the virtual hall of fame. It’s located at www.candystand.com, which is operated by Kraft Foods and is also the site of an online version of the game.

``It’s one way for us to say thanks to all the folks out there who enjoyed our product over 50 years,″ said David J. Mullany, the company’s vice president. ``We hope folks will nominate someone who captures the fun and spirit of the game.″

Organizers began accepting hall of fame nominations last week and will accept them until Sept. 1. Winners will be announced in October.

``The response has just been absolutely overwhelming,″ said Scott Tannen, who runs the Web site. ``This just resonates so well with consumers. Everybody has some tie to Wiffle Ball.″

Mullany’s grandfather, David N. Mullany, invented the white perforated plastic ball in 1953 for his son, David A. Mullany, in Fairfield as a way to play in the yard without breaking the neighbor’s windows with heavier balls, as well as to throw curveballs. Out of work at the time, he used a ball-shaped plastic package that came with a perfume product as a prototype to cut holes in the plastic so that the ball would dip and flutter when thrown.

``It made for a very interesting game,″ David A. Mullany recalled.

He recalled playing with a tennis ball that loosened the siding on his house and nearly took out his friend’s mother with one shot.

``I pulled a ball and it went just underneath her nose while she was hanging clothes,″ David A. Mullany said. ``It broke the back porch light.″

That moved the game to his house, where his father, who played baseball for the University of Connecticut and was a semi-professional pitcher, would watch them play for hours. Sometimes they used a little plastic golf ball.

``He could see I was having trouble throwing curves and sliders,″ Mullany said.

At night, the father and son worked on different designs until they came up with one that curved.

``They called it ``wiffle″ because when you swing and miss you wiffle,″ David J. Mullany said.

The ball, and later a plastic yellow bat, has never missed with generations of children who often are introduced to the nation’s pastime by Wiffle Ball. The privately held company, which has about 15 to 20 employees, would not disclose sales, but Mullany said they are steady and rising. Mullany’s father, who is the company’s president, said millions of balls and bats have been sold.

In a sign of the game’s popularity, Wiffle Ball leagues for adults have formed in recent years.

The Mullanys attribute the game’s popularity to its simplicity, noting that it takes only two people to play. Players score singles, doubles, triples and home runs according to how far they hit the ball.

``A little kid can hit a Wiffle Ball and feel like they hit it out of Yankee Stadium,″ Tannen said. ``What barbecue is complete without a game of Wiffle Ball going on in the back yard?″

___

On the Net:

www.candystand.com

www.wiffle.com

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