Behind the Mask

The first catcher’s mask was worn in baseball in April 1877. Before that time, catchers sometimes wore tightly wound rubber bands around their teeth to protect them from getting knocked out.

Baseball Game in Gainesville, late 1800s

Baseball Game in Gainesville, late 1800s

Monticello Baseball Team, late 1800s

Monticello Baseball Team, late 1800s

As early as the 1860s pitchers began throwing faster and more deceptive pitches, like the curveball. In order to field them, catchers began moving closer to home plate. The rising velocity of pitches, in conjunction with catchers inching closer to the plate, significantly increased the risk for injury.

After watching his star catcher James Tyng get hit in the face one too many times, Harvard player/manager Fred Thayer modified a fencing mask which enabled the catcher to move closer to home without the fear of being struck in the face.

Tallahassee Baseball Team, early 1900s

Tallahassee Baseball Team, early 1900s

Columbia High School Baseball Team: Lake City, ca. 1915

Columbia High School Baseball Team: Lake City, ca. 1915

Fort Wayne Daisies Catcher Dottie Schroeder: Opa-locka, 1948

Fort Wayne Daisies Catcher Dottie Schroeder: Opa-locka, 1948

Governor Farris Bryant with a Young Ballplayer, 1960s

Governor Farris Bryant with a Young Ballplayer, 1960s