Just-for-fun bowlers may not give too much thought to the ball itself, beyond making sure their fingers fit inside the holes. Serious bowlers know the ball matters big time, and that the 60 feet it travels down the lane toward the pins is nothing short of a "physics puzzle," writes Brendan I. Koerner at Wired. Koerner takes a deep dive into the subject with a profile of one of the relatively few big names in ball design, Mo Pinel, although he first had to acquaint himself with terms such as "radius of gyration," "positive axis point," and "mass bias location." And the famously gruff Pinel, a Brooklyn native, would sometimes cut conversations short if he felt Koerner hadn't done his homework. Generally, one of Pinel's big insights decades ago was to put more focus on what was inside the ball rather than its "coverstock," or outside covering.
Pinel tinkered for years but didn't have luck selling his ideas. Nearing 50, he "decided to take one last stab at becoming a bona fide ball designer: He set out to make a ball that would change the sport by reliably flaring into the pins." He succeeded in spectacular fashion by mastering the ball's RG, or radius of gyration, mostly though innovations with the symmetry of the ball's core. First came his AMF Sumo ball in 1992 and later his signature Hammer 3D Offset. The latter, writes Koerner, was "idiot-proof" because "the core was designed in such a way that it would be hard for a pro shop to muck up its action by drilling a customer’s finger holes incorrectly, an innovation that made bowlers less nervous about plunking down $200 for a ball." A sad footnote: Pinel died of COVID while Koerner was still researching the story. (Read the story in full here.)