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Shelton's Wiffle Ball Taking A Big Swing For The Toy Hall of Fame

David (left) and Stephen Mullany outside the Wiffle Ball factory in Shelton Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Stephen Mullany in the Wiffle Ball factory in Shelton Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

SHELTON, Conn. — Will Shelton’s own Wiffle Ball® make the big leagues?

The beloved backyard orb is one of 12 finalists for a coveted spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame, jockeying for position against the likes of Twister, Jenga, Battleship and an oldie but a goodie, the spinning top.

Two lucky winners will be announced on Nov. 5 at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., where the Toy Hall of Fame is located.

The winners will take their place next to a pantheon of popular playthings — from Barbie, inducted in 1998, the Hall’s inaugural year, to the ball (2009) to last year’s Little Green Army Men.

“It’s pretty neat,” said Stephen Mullany who runs the Bridgeport Avenue company with his brother, David.

The Mullanys' grandfather, David N. Mullany, got the idea for the Wiffle Ball® when he came home one day to find his 12-year-old son, David A. Mullany, playing outside with a golf ball and a broomstick. The former college pitcher thought his son might hurt his arm, so the pair sat down at the kitchen table to come up with a lighter alternative.

They fashioned a plastic ball with eight holes that would be a little easier to hit and throw and the family opened the factory in 1953.

You could say the toy was a hit: More than 60 years later, the company makes “millions” of balls — from the original “Junior” to the larger softball — every year, Stephen Mullany said.

But is it enough to clinch a berth in the Hall of Fame? As of October 27, it looked likely, with Wiffle Ball® and Twister receiving 20,363 and 24,883 votes, respectively. Each was well ahead of the competition, with the humble top receiving just 137 votes.

The Hall of Fame makes room for both commercial successes and more creative playthings. Past inductees have included the blanket, the cardboard box and the stick.

“We’ve already been beaten by a cardboard box and a stick,” said Stephen Mullany, laughing. “Go figure, right?”

Click here to vote for your favorite toy in this year’s lineup.

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