Little Bits of History

Safety in Sports

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2014
Early catcher's mask

Early catcher’s mask

April 12, 1877: A catcher’s mask is first worn during a baseball game. Baseball is a bat and ball game played between two nine-player teams. The offense is the team batting or hitting the ball while the defense has positions in the field to prevent a score. The batter, getting a legal hit will advance through the four bases and after completing the diamond, scores a point. The fielding positions are numbered for scoring purposes with the pitcher as 1, catcher as 2, bases as 3, 4, 5, short stop as 6 and the outfield as 7, 8, and 9. The game’s first appeared in type before becoming the game we know today. In 1344 there was an illustration of a game that resembled what is today called baseball. In England, in 1744 a game was called base-ball. Historians tend to agree that the game we have today was one of many regional variations and originated in this form in America.

The catcher, position #2, is placed behind the batter standing at home plate and in front of the umpire. The catcher’s primary duty is to receive the ball from the pitcher. As the only defensive player able to see the entire field, the catcher is in position to direct actions out on the field. The catcher will often use hand signals to let the pitcher know what type of ball to throw. This means the catcher must know both the pitcher’s and the batter’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how the activity on the outfield is shaping up. When a foul tip, or a ball struck by the bat that is not in fair play, occurs, it is also up to the catcher to attempt to catch the ball while still in the air to effect an out. Because of the catcher’s precarious position, he or she is given protective gear which from this date forward featured a mask. Also included today are chest and throat protectors, shin guards, and an extra-thick glove.

Because catchers need such a wide range of skills and knowledge to be effective in their job, they are often given some slack if their offensive activity isn’t as great as that held in other positions. Like the pitcher, low batting statistics are less important. Also, because of their great knowledge of so many aspects of the game itself, there is a disproportionately large number of retired catchers who end up being managers of baseball teams in both the major and minor leagues.

Before the US Civil War, pitches were lobbed to the batter underhand. Because of this type of pitch, many foul tips were hit and the catcher was placed about 20-25 feet behind the batter in order to catch the foul balls. He also wore no protective gear at the time. As pitches went to overhand throws the catcher’s duties and position changed. Pitchers were now trying to strike out the batters by throwing balls that could not be hit and it became a rule that a strike for a missed pitch could only be counted if it was caught by the catcher, thus forcing him to move in closer. Soon, they needed to wear a glove and then the mask followed. At first, this led to having a catcher’s courage questioned but the efficacy soon made it part of the routine uniform. Soon, other protective gear followed.

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. – Yogi Berra

There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens. – Tommy Lasorda

Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world. – Babe Ruth

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

Also on this day: Jerry Did Good – In 1996, Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.
The Columbus of the Cosmos – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space.

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