Turbow: Branch Rickey’s baseball revolution: helmets

From Jason Turbow at The National Pastime Museum on June 19, 2016:

When the Pirates acquired outfielder Sid Gordon prior to the 1954 season, he was an 11-year veteran and a two-time All-Star, and so was surprised upon being presented at his introductory press conference with a batting helmet that he was expected to don before a picture could be taken. Eying the equipment warily, he looked toward General Manager Branch Rickey with disbelief. “Is this necessary?” he moaned.

“Yes, it is,” responded the GM.

Rickey had brought baseball’s helmet vanguard to life in September 1952, making the most profound statement about player safety in the sport’s history, and he wasn’t about to ease up for Gordon.

Seventy years old and in the pro game for nearly a half-century, Rickey found himself unable to tolerate more than three decades’ worth of middling safety advances following the death of Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman, who’d been hit in the head by a pitch in 1920. It wasn’t just that Rickey all but invented the modern batting helmet—it was that after doing so, he mandated that every member of his Pirates team wear one, at bat and in the field, manager and coaches included.

A look at photos of the era provides all the evidence necessary. Baseball cards of Pirates players between 1954 and 1958 show them bedecked in hard hats, even while fielding their positions or striking windup poses on the mound.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/branch-rickey-s-baseball-revolution-helmets

Originally published: June 20, 2016. Last Updated: June 20, 2016.