Small Business Tour: The Wiffle Ball Inc.
This game is played all over the world, but its home is in Shelton.
Although the first Wiffle Ball was developed in Fairfield and sold in New Haven’s Three Judges restaurant, which has since closed, millions of the balls have been produced right here on Bridgeport Avenue since 1959, when the company moved to Shelton.
David N. Mullany designed the world’s first Wiffle Ball back in 1953 as a result of his son, David J. Mullany, breaking too many windows and having elbow pain from throwing curveballs with a golf ball.
With ongoing pain in their arms and rarely enough players to play a game of baseball, David’s dad sent him out to try multiple ball designs to compare which was best. They both agreed that the ball with eight oblong perforations worked best.
“That's how the Wiffle-perforated plastic ball, which design remains the same today, was invented,” said Dave Mullany, the grandson of the game’s creator, who now runs The Wiffle Ball Inc.
According to the company’s website, to this day they still do not understand why the design they chose works best, but “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
In David N. Mullany’s neighborhood, a strikeout was called a "wiff,” which led to the branding name and federally registered trademark, "Wiffle.”
The game does have rules, but Mullany loves how people create their own as they begin to play.
“Each backyard has their own set of rules, and that’s part of what’s great about the game,” said Dave Mullany.
Mullany explained the balls are made in halves and they make several different sizes, including the original size, a softball size, and a golf ball size. They’ve made blue and red balls in the past, but traditionally the company sticks with its original white design.
With hundreds of thousands of Wiffle Balls in the factory’s warehouse at a given time, Mullany said the company’s busiest shipping period is during the winter and the game has reached places some might not expect, including Alaska.
State Reps. Perillo and McGorty said they recall playing the game as kids and reflected on their favorite pitches to throw.
Mullany said the toy missed out on being nominated into the National Toy Hall of Fame back in 2015, but he is confident they will make it in in the future.
State Rep. Jason Perillo, Rep. Ben McGorty, Sen. Kevin Kelly and his son, Kevin Kelly Jr., leave The Wiffle Ball Inc. with parting gifts from the owners. — Aaron Berkowitz photo