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.


NEXT: Kuwait: Blue Comes Through

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  1. Please tell me, Gillespie, that you’re not defending the DH. Enough with your blasphemy!

  2. How does the helmet give anyone an advantage? Every in baseball player is a batter (forget the DH here, since it’s its own problem), so everyone gets the same benefit.

    And because you’re absolutely correct that baseball purists will bitch about anything, how do we know that the helmet wasn’t a target of attacks at some point? I can’t recall having read about any, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

  3. “Baseball was as boring as mom and apple pie. That’s why they jazzed it up.”

    “Boring? Baseball wasn’t…hmm, so they finally jazzed it up.”

  4. Phocion, do pardon me, because I’m on day two of a really nasty flu and am likely only half-coherent at this point. But what are you quoting? I’ve reread Nick’s post and still don’t see the line you excerpted.

  5. Ahh. Sorry, have only seen that show a couple of times.

    At the risk of throwing this thread off onto a sidetrack, could you explain the context/humor of the exchange? I just Googled it, and it seems to get quoted frequently. But I don’t get it.

  6. As a self-proclaimed purist myself, I could easily argue against the DH, steroids, artificial turf, etc. (oh – you forgot inter-league play), but have never heard a fellow purist argue against the batting helmet. That seems absurd to me.
    The helmet is simply a safety device protecting the player’s lives. It never detered pitchers from throwing inside. In fact, the greatest inside throwers in history played after the helmet’s invention – Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson.

    What is more disturbing is the “armor” worn by players today:

    An elbow (or shin) pad does not save lives. It only allows the batter to stand closer to the plate thereby covering more of the strike zone. These should be banned or at least regulated.

  7. Bah! Everybody knows baseball went to ruin the minute they started selling beer on Sunday.

  8. I’m far from a pursit, but are you telling me that you’re FOR turf and the DH?

    As for the strike zone, it’s not that it’s changed, it’s the fact that it changes every game. Hell, with some umps, it changes every inning. Just call it according to the damned rulebook. Why won’t any sport enforce it’s own rules?

  9. Nick,
    If you don’t understand how the DH is an abomination, perhaps baseball should go to a two platoon system. Fielders and hitters.

  10. larrylegend,
    One rule chane I liked about armor is that anything you wear in the batters box, you have to wear on the basepaths. So if Barry decides to wear his steel plate armor +1 vs. lefties, he has to run in it and is more likely to get thrown out on the basepaths. I hate the DH too. I’m not what one would call a purist, but I think that it’s lame. Either the DH needs to have the same stigma as an NFL kicker or it needs to be eliminated.

  11. You want to get purists upset? Talk about how great is that the NHL makes them wear helmets. And visors too (if you were born in 1975 or later)
    And a mouthpiece of if you are under 20 and not wearing a full mask.

    I believe those rules are fairly recent as well

    Now those were silly additions to the game. It’s Hockey for chrissakes. We are SUPPOSED to see guys getting hurt.

  12. OK, I’m confused again. Where did Gillespie say he favors the designated-hitter rule?

    And Phocion, come on man! Explain that “Futurama” joke!

  13. Mo,
    That rule change sounds good to me. Of course, Barry doesn’t hustle on the basepaths anyway so it wouldn’t make a difference to him. That guy is 1-18 on the 20-sider to get tossed at home from second on a single

    The DH sucks. Especially the professional DH – the guy who NEVER plays defense – Erubiel Durazo, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez. Its ridiculous. They sit in the dugout for about 45 minutes, go up to the plate, get out 70% of the time, and go sit back down for 45 minutes. Unreal! This is baseball?
    Grab a glove, get out in the field, or retire!

  14. DH is an abomination. But interleague play is worse. They had interleague already, it was called the World Series. See Also: Bud Selig must be destroyed.

  15. I recall seeing the last player to go up to bat without a helmet.

    If I remember rightly it was in the 1978 AL Eastern Division Championship. A player for Boston had started playing the year before helmets became mandatory and was grandfathered in. He only had to use some kind of insert in a regular cap.

    Does anyone else remember and do you know who he was? Or if I’m even right?

    And if it will do any good I think the DH rule sucks too.

  16. Hey, ChicagoTom:

    How’s it feel seeing your silly Cubs get raped by the Cards in the standings?

    Suffer, Tom, suffer! 🙂

  17. Leela:
    “As a pitcher, I serve plenty of bean balls, so I know good beans when I see them. Bean Bay Beans, they’re the beaniest.”

    /Seemed appropriate
    /Got nuthin’

  18. larrylegend — Don’t think I didn’t notice that Strat-O-Matic reference!

  19. Next you will want to outlaw catchers equipment, including cups, and masks. If a catcher can protect his jewels, why can’t a batter protect his head?

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