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The history of Baseball Catcher's Shin Guards

Old school baseball shin guards

A baseball catcher wears a mask, a helmet, a chest guard and a special catcher's glove. He also wears shin guards. The protective gear they wear today has gone through some serious advancements throughout the years. The shin guards being one of most adapted.

Catcher's shin guards were first introduced to the game eighty six years ago, in 1907, at the Polo Grounds, in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Future hall of famer New York Giant's catcher Roger Bresnahan was the first to don the protective gear on his legs. They were a modified version of leg guards that were worn, and are still today worn, by cricket players. Bresnaham made his original shin guards out of leather, fastened with hooks and straps. When Bresnahan donned the catcher's shin guards, they were the the final piece of the catcher's equipment. All of the equipment worn by the catcher at that time has been improved upon dramatically, but nothing new has been added to the list of protective gear.

While Bresnahan was the first to openly admit that he required padding to protect his poor legs from foul balls, wild pitches, thrown bats and of course, piercing spikes, players had been protecting their shins to a lesser degree since as early as at least 1890. At that time, catchers would wrap their bare lower legs with leather or newspaper and then hide the wrapping underneath their uniform. The concept was there, but the full fledged catcher's shin guards were not born until Bresnahan decided that he had had enough.

His original model evolved into shin guards made from rods of light cane covered by padded fabric which protected both the catcher's shins and his knees. They have continued to evolve and shortly thereafter they began to cover the catcher's insteps and ankles, as well as his shins and his knees.

Rawlings, still one of the largest manufacturers of baseball - and other sporting - gear on the market today, introduced a model of shin guards in 1916 that were made of hard and heavy fiberboard. Throughout the twenties and the thirties, this heavy fiberboard supplanted the original cane design.

In the late 1950s, the Brooklyn Dodgers (who would later become the Los Angeles Dodgers) developed a catcher's shin guard with a hinge on it, in order to improve mobility for the catcher during play. The Dodgers have had a large role in aiding in the lifetime evolution of the baseball catcher's gear.

By the 1960s, the model was improved upon yet again, as the hard and heavy fiberboard began to be replaced with tough and molded plastics. To demonstrate the toughness of the new model, it has been explained that Tim McCarver, a baseball announcer and a former catcher himself, had two collisions with Tommy Agee, a member at the time of the New York Mets. In each collision, spokes from Agee's cleats embedded into the guards, but McCarver avoided injury outright.

When a baseball catcher dons the entire safety equipment - or suit of armor - at his disposal, including his glove, his mask, his chest protector and his shin guards, he is said to be in his "tools of ignorance."


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