On January 12, 1878, Frederick W. Thayer, Harvard baseball manager, patented the baseball catchers mask.
The Harvard baseball player modified a fencing helmet to give catchers the opportunity to get closer to the plate without worrying about having their faces rearranged by a bat. Catchers were getting closer to the plate to help with throwing players out when they bunted or attempted to steal a base.
Before the mask was put into use, many catchers ended up with broken noses. Once they started using the masks injuries were reduced to small scrapes when wires broke. Harvard catcher James A. Tyng had been hit by a couple foul tips and grew wary of keeping his face in harms way. His innovative manager made the mask to help give the catcher confidence again.
The A. G. Spalding and Brothers Company started selling the masks later in the year for $3. Thayr collected royalties after suing Spalding for copyright infringement. Since the first catchers helmets were used, changes have been made to increase protection while decreasing weight.
While it is disputed weather Thayer invented the catchers mask or if it was Tyng or even someone else, the innovation changed the game forever.
Related links: http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/timeline/thayers_invention.htm (Nebraska historical society) http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/10/sports-helmets-catcher%E2%80%99s-mask/ (Harvard Gazette article) http://www.realclearhistory.com/historiat/2013/04/12/the_original_harvard_invention_dispute_103.html (Real Clear History)
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