Baseball is a physical sport that involves a lot of risks, including minor and extensive injuries. Players are best protected with the correct gear!
One of these protective gear used in baseball now is the helmet, but these are not around since the game began.
Then, when did baseball players start wearing helmets?
The Brooklyn Dodgers were the first players to be recorded wearing headgear in 1941. However, it was not until 1971 that helmets became mandatory in the MLB!
The Emergence of Baseball Helmets
If you watch the latest professional baseball games, players are now equipped with protective gear for the head. To some, a protective helmet with face guard offer double the shield from injuries.
The MLB batting helmets are usually worn by batters to protect their head from speeding pitches. Errors may happen, and the high velocity of the pitch, which can reach over 100 MPH, can come straight in the wrong direction.
Every batting helmet that we see today is made of tough plastic. It is designed to fit over the player’s baseball cap. Moreover, the helmet can also be customized to fit the team’s uniforms.
The History and Context
Surprisingly, helmets have not always been part of baseball. But baseball has not always been the safest sport to play, especially way back in its early days.
When baseball games first came about, many unsportsmanlike strategies were employed to distract batters. For instance, the opposing team used to throw balls toward unprotected batters, usually in their head, to deliberately divert them! This “strategy” was so common back in the day that it was coined “beanball.”
The story goes as brutal as history remembers Ray Chapman, a batter from the Cleveland Indians. He died in 1920 after being fatally injured in the head by Carl Mays.
This was not an isolated case, as 20 years later, the same “beanballing” strategy targeted the Brooklyn Dodgers in one of their games. Pitches directed to the opponents’ heads were so fatal that the shortstop Pee Wee Reese and Joe ”Ducky” Medwick was missing from the games for weeks to recover.
And the stories just keep on piling up. Detroit Tiger Mickey Cochrane had a fatal hit to the head in 1937. His doctor told him that this injury would completely stop him from playing, and led to his early retirement as an athlete.
Unfortunately, these misfortunes were not enough to mandate the beginning of required helmets for players. It would be much later that the MLB start wearing helmets.
The Evolution of Baseball Helmets: Mandating Helmets in the Pro-Games
If hockey players start wearing helmets and do not feel distracted by them, then why not for baseball? After dreadful years of avoiding wearing a batting helmet for ignorant reasons, players started giving themselves more protection by wearing some gear.
In 1941, the Brooklyn Dodgers was the first recorded team to require head protection. The Brooklyn Dodgers had a very different-looking helmet here.
Their aim was to avoid serious head injuries. And they wore protective plate inserts all around the baseball hat. It was a crude design, but the baseball community learned a lot from it.
The MLB started mandating helmets in 1971. During this period, some still wore cloth caps, like Norm Cash, Tony Taylor, and Bob Montgomery. In 1983, helmets were modified to have flaps down the ears. As time went on, the design and material of the helmet became more refined to be as light as possible while remaining to be sturdy.
In 2003, the Rawlings made a wonderful helmet that can withstand a whopping 100mph fastball and is made with carbon fiber material. Because of this, the MLB named Rawlings as their standard when it comes to quality batting helmets
The batting helmet used to be required only for those on the offensive team. However, naming it a batting helmet is a misnomer, as the rules nowadays make it clear that even those on base and deck must be wearing it.
Impact of Helmets on Player Safety
A baseball game begins when a pitcher throws the ball to the batter. Here, the pitches can have a massive velocity of up to 100 mph and are enough to cause injuries when mishaps happen.
The head and neck are very vulnerable parts of the body. And as seen in the history of “beanballing” opponents, it can lead to fatal and tragic endings for those who fall victim to these nasty tricks.
Of course, beanballing was not the only risk there was to baseball players. Sometimes, a pitcher may have slips or wrong aims. Catchers are also at risk of having a speeding ball hit their heads and faces.
In many cases, injuries are preventable by simple means. The batter helmets are seen to decrease an athlete’s risk of serious injury to the skull or brain.
As athletes are having a safer field to play on, they would have more opportunities to bring out their best in every game. Plus, they would not have to worry about fatal injuries that can send them to early retirement or even death.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who invented the baseball helmet?
The first batting helmet in 1907 was made by Roger Bresnahan. He was the first to make a simple gear for protecting the head of batters from any serious injuries.
Are there any specific rules regarding helmet designs in baseball?
Rule 1, Section 5 about player equipment in baseball mandates the need for a batting helmet for batters, runners, and coaches.
Furthermore, the helmet to be used must pass the NOCSAE standard and would result in a violation when player compliance fails.
The Rawling manufacturers are the official makers of the MLB pitcher helmets and other gear. Their work is said to be 130 times stronger than other plastic materials and is constructed with carbon fiber.
Do all baseball players wear helmets, including pitchers and catchers?
Major League Baseball notes that all baseball players, including catchers and pitchers, must wear helmets. This is why catchers start wearing helmets, aside from their chest protectors.
Why do baseball helmets cover one ear?
Pro players use batting helmets with one ear flap only. They say that it is more comfortable this way. Moreover, the ear without the flap is used to hear the coach’s instructions or by sensing the incoming pitch.
Baseball had a rough start when it came to the players’ safety. There have been many occasions of pitches fatally hitting a player on the head, causing injury and even death. But helmets are not required just yet!
When did baseball players start wearing helmets? The MLB started to require protection by 1971, which is decades after the reported injuries and death related to being hit by a ball in the head.
Now, the baseball helmet is a required gear that hopes to lessen or even eliminate the risk of injuries or death during the game.
A powerful swing and the ball is flying across the field, just one hit, and we might never forget the thrill it brings. I do not know about you, but I never do. Every baseball game is the chance to compete with others and cooperate with your teammate. It is among my biggest passions.