Baseball is considered one of the most well-known sports in the world, as its simple but fun gameplay will truly attract people that just want to enjoy playing sports without knowing complicated rules and techniques. While the modern version of baseball we know today is quite popular, its rules and equipment are vastly different from the early versions of the sport. Would you believe that the early baseball balls have a flat side? And would you also believe that there weren’t baseball gloves used during the first years of the sport? To know more about these tidbits, let us take a look at the history of baseball equipment and its development.
The Baseball Bat
Baseball wouldn’t be called “baseball” without the bat, which is used to hit the ball and score a home run or make it as difficult as possible for the opposing players to catch it. The early versions of the baseball bat are much heavier than the ones that we used today. In addition, the early bats were also thicker, but they later made it much thinner in order for the player to have a firmer grip on it and to make it lighter as well.
Materials used to make a baseball bat vary before the 1800s, and you would often see bats that are made of maple, pitch pine, and hickory ash. In addition to the variety in materials, the bats come in different sizes as well, with some bats having flat sides and others having a knob at the end of the handle. In 1865, the various clubs that govern baseball games had decided that bats should only be made from hickory ash so that their weight is the same. Furthermore, the clubs also regulated the weight of the bats in 1885 to further emphasize that players should always have bats of equal weight to make gameplay fair.
In 1893, the shape of the bat was also changed, as the clubs no longer allowed bats to have flat sides since they decided that baseball games should only be played using round bats. Then, the dimension of the bat was also changed in 1895 to only be 2.74 inches in thickness. All modern bats that we use today still have the same thickness.
The Iconic Baseball
Serving as the centerpiece for baseball, the ball is such an important item in the sport that a game couldn’t be played without it. During the early years of baseball in the 1800s, the balls used for games were typically made by the players using a ball of yarn that is covered in a piece of leather that is stitched together to make it round in shape. The technique that they use to stitch the leather is called the lemon peel or rose petal method, wherein they would stitch the leather in distinct shapes that would make the ball appear like a lemon or a rose.
The size and weight of the balls would often be different from each other during the early years of the sport, although most of the balls are significantly smaller than the ones we now use in recent years. However, the varying sizes of baseballs were changed when three baseball teams from New York decided on only one size and weight of the ball in 1854. During their meeting, it was decided that the ball should be 5.5 ounces in weight and 2.75 inches in size. The size of the ball would continually be adjusted until the official size that we used today was decided in 1871.
The Baseball Glove
Surprisingly, baseball gloves weren’t officially included in the sport until 1895, which is about more than 30 years after the creation of baseball clubs and leagues. During the first years of the sport, most players would often complain that catching the ball can be quite painful for the hands, so they remedied this problem by wearing gloves worn for winter in order to not get blisters or bruises in the hand that they use for catching. Eventually, the gloves evolved to being made of leather, which is the material that is being used to make modern baseball gloves.
There are a lot of various theories as to who invented the leather baseball gloves. Some claim that Albert Spalding (renowned co-founder of the Spalding sporting goods company) invented a black leather baseball glove in 1977. Others suggest that player Doug Allison wore the very first leather baseball glove in 1870 because he was protecting his injured catching hand. Regardless of who invented the glove, it was Spalding that capitalized on its popularity, as he began selling the fingerless glove soon after its creation.
Because the glove became popular in the 1890s, which is probably caused by the craze for the “Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt” that was sold by Spalding, several baseball leagues around the world created a rule wherein the catcher and the first baseman are the only ones allowed to use gloves.
It is fascinating that baseball is one of the few sports that have undergone plenty of changes and evolutions over the years, and almost all of these changes made the game simpler, safer, and more enjoyable for professionals, amateurs, and even those that play it as a hobby. It has been quite so long since there have actually been any modifications made for the rules and the equipment on the sport, so the present version of baseball that we play and watch today will probably remain for many more years.