The Man Who Destroyed Baseball, Part XXVIII


Not really. But the Wash Post today carries an obit for Charlie Muse, the baseball exec who is credited with creating the baseball helmet, which became required equipment only in the mid-1950s:

Muse was nicknamed "The Colonel" because of his all-business approach, and it was his military-like ability to improvise that helped speed the invention of the batting helmet.

Until former Pirates general manager Branch Rickey pushed in the early 1950s for the creation of a protective helmet, batters traditionally wore only their cloth caps to the plate. At the time, Rickey owned American Baseball Cap Inc., and he chose Mr. Muse to run the company and design a suitable helmet.

"It [the development] was more difficult than people would think," Mr. Muse told the Associated Press in a 1989 interview. "The players laughed at the first helmets, called them miner's helmets. They said the only players who would wear them were sissies."…

The Pirates were the first team to wear the helmets in 1952 and 1953, and their adoption was speeded after the Braves' Joe Adcock was beaned so severely by the Dodgers' Clem Labine in 1954 that he was unconscious for 15 minutes.

Whole thing here. I love the way Branch Rickey, like some latter-day Ben Franklin, managed to do well by doing good–in broad daylight, too.

I'm always amazed by baseball purists who bitch and moan about every development and change in how the game is played. If you're a fan of baseball, you've heard the arguments about how artificial turf, the designated hitter, the changing of the strike zone, expansion teams, the live ball, the dead ball, free agency, steroids, ad nauseaum, have killed the game. Why not attack the the batting helmet (which clearly gives an advantages to batters save those in the beanball brigage such as Joe Adcock, Tony Conigliaro, Paul Blair, Dickie Thon, etc.)? Or mitts with actual webbing and pockets?

Baseball purists–you know you're out there–are as tedious as Catholics who pretend that the Church has never modified, adapted, or changed in its long history (though baseball as sport gets the nod for better in-stadium eats).

RIP, Charlie Muse. We salute you for a good, pre-cyborg solution to one of baseball's thorniest issues.