ST. PAUL, MINN. - ``Mom always said don't play ball in the house,'' a youthful Bobby Brady once warned his ``Brady Bunch'' siblings. Little did Bobby know that in 1970 a new toy would make mom's rule null and void. That year toy maker Reynolds Guyer introduced the soft, polyurethane foam Nerf Ball.
``We knew we had something that was quite important,'' said Guyer, who is celebrating the 25th birthday of Nerf.
``From then on, it's been a very pleasant surprise,'' he said
Before Nerf, Guyer had tasted success with another invention. While working for his father's design company, he led the team that created Twister, a game that became popular immediately despite the fact that players were in closer proximity to each other than any other game before that time.
After Twister took off, Guyer spun off into his own toy and game company - Winsor Concepts. There he and other designers tried to develop a caveman game with rocks made out of PU.
Guyer's team began to smooth the rocks more and more, eventually creating spheres that could bounce and be hit over nets, he said. The Nerf Ball was born.
Nerf today is the largest line of sports/action toys in the world, selling more than 100 million units over the past 25 years, according to Kenner Products, a subsidiary of Hasbro Toy Group and the current producer of Nerf.
The Nerf family includes 42 toys - everything from the ever-popular Nerf Football to the Nerf Soccerball to the Nerf Bow and Arrow.
Next to the original Nerf Ball, Guyer's favorite is the new Nerf Ballzooka.
Just about everyone - from astronauts to professional athletes such as NFL quarterback Steve Young - has played with a Nerf toy at some time, Kenner said.
Originally, Parker Brothers produced the balls by cutting foam with hot, metal wire, Guyer said.
Three years ago, Kenner took over production. The toy manufacturer molds and extrudes Nerf toys in the United States and overseas, but will not release production details.
``Since its introduction in 1970, the Nerf brand has truly evolved into an icon not only of the toy industry, but of popular culture in general,'' said Tom McGrath, a senior vice president for Hasbro Toy Group.
Guyer's involvement with Nerf has decreased in recent years. Today the 59-year-old is too busy with Winsor Concepts and a country music company in Nashville, Tenn., plus a new musical character for children named ``Curly Lasagna'' for which he has written songs and stories.