The key baseball equipments are the bat, gloves, mask and the ball itself. The information about the same is available all over the Internet. Even 5 year olds have their opinion on the same. However, let us now look at the evolution of these equipments over a period of time.
The evolutions of baseball equipments can be traced from the 19th century itself right fro the conception of the game. However, the game then used very few types of equipment in the 19th century. No helmets were used. Gloves gained popularity in the late 1880s and the baseball has retained the same dimensions, weight and leather pattern since 1872.
Baseball Equipment: Bat
The look and feel of the 19th century bats was very different from the present day’s bats. The handles were heavier and thicker and had more of a gradual taper from the handle to the barrel. They were made with or without knobs on the handle and ‘rings’ were painted on various parts of the bat to reflect the team color.
The dimensions of the bat were finally agreed upon during the first baseball convention in 1857. The dimensions were described as round, not to be more than two and one-half inches around in its thickest part and the length could be decided according to the suitability of the striker. However, during the 1868 season, it was decided that the bat could not be longer than 42 inches.
Baseball Equipment: The Glove and the Mask
The gloves in the 19th century started out as merely a leatherwork glove, with or without full fingers, and gradually padding was added to it. Though, it is not possible to pinpoint the first player to wear a glove but reports indicate that as early as 1860 the catchers were wearing them.
In 1885, Arthur Irwin, in order to protect his two broken fingers, added ‘padding’ to his buckskin glove. This is probably the first instance of a player introducing noticeable padding to a glove.
As the evolution of the glove progressed, the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs instituted a rule in 1895, which stated, “The catcher and the first baseman are permitted to wear a glove or mitt of any size, shape or weight. All other players are restricted to the use of a glove or mitt weighing not over ten ounces, and measuring in circumference around the palm of the hand not over fourteen inches.” This would be the rule for the rest of the 19th century.
The catcher’s mask was first worn by Jim Tyng of the Harvard University Base Ball Club in an exhibition game loss against the Boston Red Stockings in May of 1876, 7-6. It is said that Tyng’s roommate and team Captain, Fred Thayer invented the mask in 1875. Thayer modified a fencing mask, which enabled Tyng to move closer to home base and receive the ball without fear of being struck in the face. Tyng also wore a small padded glove in the game.
Baseball Equipment: The Uniform
The Knickerbocker Baseball Club introduced the uniform on April 24, 1849. It consisted of long blue woolen trousers, leather belts, white flannel shirts with a full collar and straw hats. At the end of the 1850’s, many teams adopted the flannel shirt with the button on shield style, which contained the team’s emblem, name or both. The full-length pantaloon pants were in fashion throughout the 1860s but presented a problem, as the players would get their feet caught on the legs of the pants when running. Hence, players were forced to wrap them tight to their shins and use tape or a small belt to hold them. In1868, Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to wear knickers. These pants were less restrictive, and as a result their stockings or socks were now visible. The uniforms are probably the only aspect of the game that has evolved so drastically from the game’s conception to the present era.
Baseball Equipment: The Baseball
The baseball itself was a very important part of the development of the early game of baseball. The hand-made baseball allowed their makers to become identified as making a live, medium or dead ball and was the key factor used by the visiting team to decide their strategy. The size and weight of the baseball changed radically in 1857 and continued to change in the 1860’s and in 1872 became the same as the ball used today.
Surrounding a core with any solid substance made early baseballs and hand wound yarn or string. Very often, the baseball would also contain some form of stuffing. The cover was a single piece cover, usually in the form of brown leather. The balls were hand made by local merchants and players and hence had no standard size or weight. During the first baseball convention in 1857, the diameter of the baseball was voted on to be between ten and ten and one-quarter inches in circumference and weigh between six and six and one-quarter ounces.