The Face Behind The Mask

 

Thaiss 2015

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” ~ Casey Stengel

In 1876, Fred Thayer, the team manager of Harvard’s baseball team, took a fencing mask, tinkered with it, and turned it into baseball’s first catcher’s mask. It didn’t take long for other catchers to catch on.

Thayer patent

Thayer’s original catcher’s mask patent.

Fans, according to The New York Times, hated the innovation, considering a protective mask a sign of weakness. They jeered at catchers who wore them.  (Batting helmets? Shin guards? Thumb protectors? Today’s game would drive our great-great-great grandparents nutty.)

The mask annoyed fans, but it changed the game. It allowed catchers to be much closer to the batter. It allowed pitchers to amp up their pitches without worrying about killing their catcher with an errant throw.

By 1878, Spalding had added it to their sporting goods’ catalog.

spalding

Goat hair and dog skin. $3.

Today’s best masks can run to more than $100. (Which, if you ask me, is a pretty small price to pay to keep your nose, cheekbone, and brain intact.) No more dog skin either. Progress.

It’s hard to know what’s going on behind those “tools of ignorance.” It’s hard to see a catcher’s face, especially way out in the bleachers.

Thaiss 2016

Matt Thaiss, gritty catcher for the University of Virginia, is tough as nails.

“He won’t give up,” UVA pitcher Alec Bettinger told The Daily Progress last week. “He could have his legs chopped off and he’d still go out there and catch. He’s just the toughest guy on the team.”

But, sometimes, when you look inside the mask …

Matt Thaiss March 2016

… he seems almost angelic.

Which just goes to show …

I don’t really know what it goes to show.  But, sometimes the face you find behind a mask isn’t always the face you expected to find.

In response to the Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge: Face. See more challenge photos here.

Photos: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. 2015-2016 © The Baseball Bloggess

 

10 Hours of Baseball

dry seats 3 19 2016

“This would be the ideal town for weather bureau headquarters. It would take an army of clerks to keep account of the rise and fall in the temperature alone. … No one would be surprised upon awakening tomorrow to find that the north pole had suddenly located here or that we had moved during the night to the tropical zone. Most anything can be accomplished overnight in the town of Charlottesville.” ~ The Washington Post, March 6, 1915

College baseball fans know the deal. There is little room in a tight collegiate season for rain delays. And, there is no room at all for cancelled games.

While big leaguers unroll the tarps at the first rain shower, college players soldier on.

Matt Thaiss 3 19 2016

Matt Thaiss, Catcher.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons came to Charlottesville this weekend to play a Friday/Saturday/Sunday series against the University of Virginia Cavaliers.

But, with the promise of rain and snow and wind and cold, things required a bit of shuffling. Keep up with me here.

Ernie Clement 3 19 2016

Ernie Clement, Second Base.

Friday evenings’s game was moved to Friday afternoon. Sunday’s game was moved to Friday night. Saturday afternoon’s game was moved to Saturday morning.

Got it?

(This is why I can already tell you that UVA won tomorrow’s game. Blows your mind, doesn’t it?)

Continue reading