Baseball equipment has undergone a dramatic change throughout the history of baseball. The baseball game started as a bat-and-ball game in which two opposing teams used to take turns for batting and fielding. The player on the fielding team is known as the pitcher who throws a ball and the batting team’s player hits the ball with a bat. The equipment used in a baseball game is baseball, baseball bat, baseball glove, batting helmet, catcher’s gear, etc.
The equipment is having an unusual history. Most of the equipment was employed in the 19th century. The changes in baseball equipment have been done according to the infrequent regulations. It has evolved in the past years.
The Unusual History of Baseball Equipment
The baseball bat used by the pitcher in the baseball game is a smooth wooden or metal bat. according to the current regulations, it cannot be more than 2.75 in diameter and 42 inches in length. The form of the bat has evolved. In the mid-19th century, it was shaped and whittle by the batter. As a result, they were in different sizes, shapes, and weights. There were round bats, flat bats, fat bats, or short bats.
The bats used nowadays are much lighter and small than in the earlier period. Also, the handle designs have evolved since the 19th century.
- In 1890, Emile Kinst came up with a banana or ball-bat. the shape of the bat was in a curve and it was named a banana bat.
- Another unusual bat was introduced by Spalding in 1906. It was named a mushroom bat. it was having a mushroom-shaped knob on the handle. The design of the bat was to distribute the weight over the length of the entire bat.
- Lajoie baseball bat was introduced by Wright & Ditsons. The bat was of normal size but it was having two knobs on the handle. The design of the bat was to give a better space between the hands. It helped the batters for better grip if they choked up on the bat.
- In 1990, Bruce Leinert came up with a baseball bat having an ax handle. It was patented in 2007 as Axe Bat. It was used by the pro ranks and college players.
The ball is made up of rubber or cork in the center. It is wrapped in yarn or the covering of white horsehide or cowhide is used. The current regulation of baseball ball is 9 to – 9 1/4 inches in circumference and 2 55/64 to 2 15/16 in diameter. The baseball ball is bounded together with 1008 hand-woven stitches through the cowhide leather.
The earlier balls were made from the rubber core of old and melted shoes with a wrap of leather or yarn. To your surprise, fish eyes were used as cores in some of the balls. The lines of stitching design in earlier days gave the ball the name of lemon peel ball. They were smaller, darker and the weight of the balls was less than the others.
The live balls were introduced in the mid-1850s with tighter winding and more rubber. They went faster and further than the previous ones. The commonplace figure-8 stitching on balls was introduced by Ellis Drake who was a shoemaker’s son. Some historians say that it was invented by Colonel William A. Cutler. Yet there is not settle an agreement on the figure-8 stitching of the ball.
In 1910, a cork-core ball was introduced. Later in 1920, further changes were made to the ball using machine winders. A higher-grade yarn was used in the making of balls. It was imported from Australia. In 1925, Milton Reach patented cushion cork center. It was surrounded by black rubber with an extra layer of red rubber.
In 1934, the National League and American League standardized baseball. The standard was of making of the ball was on the following steps:
- Cushion cork center
- Two wrappings of yarn
- Special rubber cement
- Two more wrappings of yarn
- Horsehide cover
A baseball glove or mitt is worn by the defending team if a large leather glove. It assists the player in catching and fielding balls hit by a pitcher. To your surprise, the early baseball game was played without gloves. The gloves were introduced in the game. The player who used to play baseball without the glove was called a barehanded catcher. In the early period of gloves, they were not webbed and were particularly suited for catching.
The first glove was used by Charlie Waitt who was the first baseman and outfielder of St. Louis. The first glove was of flesh color. The early gloves were having fingertips cut off. It was for the same control as barehanded but with extra padding. In 1920, a pitcher of St. Louis Cardinals named Bill Doak suggested placing the web between the first finger and the thumb. The design was to create a pocket.
The design suggested by Doak was considered as a standard of baseball gloves. This design of the glove was sold to Rawlings by Doak. Over the years, the size of the glove has evolved. The size of the webbing glove was increased for better catching. The modern gloves used in baseball are more specialized for each position such as:
- Catcher’s Mitts
- First Baseman’s Mitts
- Infielders Gloves
- Pitcher’s Gloves
- Outfielder’ Gloves
- Switch-thrower’s Gloves
- Left-hand Throw Gloves
The batting helmet protects the batter’s head from the ball thrown by the pitcher. If the ball hits the head of the pitcher hard, a fatal injury can happen. The helmet protects the pitcher from serious injuries. In 1905, the first crude protective headgear was created by Mogridge. The first design was like an inflatable boxing glove wrapped around the head. In 1908, Bresnahan, Hall of Fame catcher was injured with a pitch.
In early times, the ear and temple region were protected rather than the whole head. An aluminum protector was developed for the back of the head. In 1960, Jim Lemon was the first player to wear the Little League helmet. These helmets were made of earflaps on both sides. The withstanding of the helmet with this helmet is up to 120 miler per hour.
The no-flat helmets are still used in baseball. In modern days, some players wear helmets without flaps but they wear a facemask to prevent facial injuries. Currently, the use of double earflap batting helmets is required to play in all leagues including Minor League Baseball. On the other hand, a single earflap is required in Major League Baseball.
Jockstrap also known as the cup, supporter, jock, groin guard, etc. is an undergarment used for the protection of the testes and penis. It protects and supports the genitalia. The jockstrap has been in use since 1891. It was first designed for the bicycle riding deliverymen and messengers, also known as Bike Jockey Strap.
For additional protection, cups are offered in a jockstrap. They are made of steel, hard plastic with perforated material for ventilation. For low contact sports, soft cups are used that are of comfortable and flexible material. The pelvic protector, the female version of a jockstrap is used by females to protect their genitalia from tearing and bruising.
Baseball Equipment – From Early Period to Modern Times
Baseball equipment has evolved over the years. In early times, the baseball team used to play the game without protective equipment. Even the gloves were not there. With time, different equipment used in baseball was introduced. It evolved over the years in terms of shape, size, color, material, etc.
Some of the protective gear was used for other purposes, but it was introduced in the game as a piece of standard equipment. You might observe baseball game as a low contact sport, but it is not. It requires all the basic equipment for playing it safe and without fatal injuries!