Today's Tidbit... White and Yellow Footballs for Night Games ($)
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A reader asked recently whether I had written about the yellow footballs in the past, and unfortunately, I lost track of who asked the question. My memory loss does not change the fact that I have not written about yellow footballs specifically, but I scratched the surface on white, yellow, and striped footballs back in the days and nights when stadium lights were none too bright.
The earliest reference I find to using footballs that are not tan comes in 1904 when Stagg, who was also among the first coaches whose teams regularly practiced under the lights, had his teams use white footballs when practicing at dusk and in the evening. That was in the pre-forward pass days, but teams punted a lot, and players needed to see the ball under poor illumination, so they painted the balls white.
White footballs became a more prominent topic in the 1920s as a few teams began playing night games semi-regularly. During that period, they used the PYOB (Paint Your Own Ball) approach since the equipment catalogs did not mention white balls until 1932 or so, when the manufacturers started offering white or yellow versions of their higher-price balls. The catalogs do not show examples of lighter-skinned balls. They only note their availability, and they do not mention stripes.