CATCHERS OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
The catcher, the most physically demanding position on the baseball diamond, and the most knowledgeable player on the field have gone through changes. Through the long history of the American past-time of baseball, the catcher has seen their equipment up-date to meet the challenging force of a pitcher and the battle against a hardball gaining velocity off the wooden bat while only a couple feet off the plate. The catcher has developed as a weak-offensive threat with a focus for a strong defensive performance while playing the role as an on-field manager. Perhaps the most important position in the game, the unrecognized catcher has gone through the most change, the most challenge, and is used as a double-threat, coaching and playing the game on the field all at once. With a total of 14 Hall of Fame inductees, it shows that their focus is not only on their own performance, but the success of the pitcher and the 7 players behind them. As pitching has developed throughout the decades, adding more spin and velocity to their itinerary's, catching equipment was needed in order to protect the most important position player in the game, the catcher.
Before the use of baseball gloves, catchers would lay their hands on barrels of sand and let their teammates take turns at beating them with baseball bats . With obvious concern for the safety of a catcher, different style gloves began to be used. The first documented glove was in 1870, used by catcher Doug Allison, catcher of the Cincinnati Red-Stockings, the first professional baseball team . When the glove was first introduced, players were weary of wearing them on the field, being contested by the many fans questioning their manliness. In an attempt to popularize the mitt, and to gain himself profit in his wealthy business, Albert Spalding gave the mitt a manly look in 1877, sporting a black mitt with holes in the fingers. In 1890, Harry Decker introduced a mitt that offered more protection. The "Decker Safety Catcher's Mitt" was a simple invention, consisting of a glove and a pad, stitched together to cushion the blow of a fastball. Almost immediately the Decker Mitt gained in popularity, but it wasn't until Harry Latina's addition to the style of the mitt that lead it to being as effective as it is today. In an effort to make it easier to catch the ball, Latina added more depth to the mitt giving it a stronger grip. Even with Latina's contribution, catcher's still caught with two hands to maintain possession. This was common until the hinged mitt was introduced in the 1960's. This is the style that is primarily used today, popularized in the 60's by Johnny Bench and Randy Hundly. Although the mitt has very well developed over the years, there is now new "digital leather" being introduced. This mitt is the first attempt to concentrate on the spin of the ball, stopping its force on impact. The other function that this "digital leather" is making an attempt to do is to absorb the shock of impact. This goes to show that the velocity of pitchers has always increased, now being more powerful then ever, causing baseball companies to come up with a more protective garment. Catchers mask have seen many changes since the beginning of national game. Before the mask was even invented, Harry Wright used a boxing style mouthpiece. With injuries and even a few deaths rising in the game amongst catchers, Fred Thayer, a Harvard player, invented the mask in 1877. This development saw immediate results by significantly reducing the amount of errors committed by the catching position. This masks was designed after a fencing mask, except with eyeholes. Eventually padding, made of imported dog skin, was added on after 1878. In an effort to improve the vision of a catcher, Roger Bresnahan, a catcher himself, developed the "open vision" and "wide sight" models. Although most styles of catcher equipment is developed by catcher's...
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