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It’s child endangerment time again in America—baseball season

Posted by John Reed on

Copyright 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008 by John T. Reed

Baseball is by far the most dangerous of the popular youth sports. Amazingly, hardly anyone seems aware of this. Millions of parents who refuse to let their child play youth football, one of the safest youth sports, blithely send them off to baseball without a thought about safety. What's worse is the injuries youth baseball players suffer are almost all easily preventable. For a more detailed discussion of this topic, see my book, Youth Baseball Coaching.

Sports that have a dangerous image, like youth football and youth hockey, have adopted virtually every safety recommendation made by the pertinent medical and safety groups. But youth-baseball organizations have almost completely ignored the safety recommendations pertinent to their sport. One organization, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, even went so far as to issue a position statement (May 1991) noting that football and hockey adopted recommended safety equipment and drastically reduced injuries, while baseball has ignored the recommendations and continues to have a high injury rate as a result.

Prevent Blindness America (formerly The National Society to Prevent Blindness) characterizes baseball as a

"Moderate-to-high-risk sport," Those are sports that "...involve use of a bat or stick, high-speed ball, close aggressive play (body contact), or a combination of these factors."

Rita Glassman of the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (formerly the National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries) says:

"Baseball has the leading number of fatalities and the least amount of safety equipment."

Here are the risks, incidence of the injury in question, the recommended safety measures, who says so, and the national leagues' policies:



Safety recommendations

Who says so?

Policies of the various national leagues

Death from intracranial (brain) bleeding or ventricular fibrillation or asystole (stops heart) caused by bat (rare) or ball (the usual cause) impact on upper body or collision with player or obstacle

5/year or 1 per million players per season (Consumer Product Safety Commission figures) 1996 CPSC news release on baseball protective equipment

Eliminate on-deck circle

American Academy of Pediatrics references on baseball safety

Little League Baseball, Inc. abolished the on-deck circle for 12 and under players. As far as I know, no other national organization has done so.

Use only balls that meet NOCSAE standard (Worth Reduced-Injury-Factor balls and Kenko balls)

Tufts University study published in the 6/18/98 New England Journal of Medicine and editorial in same issue Children in Japan use only balls that do or would meet this standard

American Amateur Baseball Congress requires NOCSAE balls for 12 and under. As far as I know no other organization does.

Oral, facial, eye, and head injuries

Oral, facial, eye, and head injuries

Oral, facial, eye, and head injuries

170,000 baseball related head and facial injuries in 1980 or 75 per 1,000 players per season (Consumer Product Safety Commission figures) CPSC Publication #329 Baseball Safety

"Youth baseball and softball now lead all sports in the number of oral, facial, eye, and head injuries." (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry)

Use only helmets with face guards that meet NOCSAE standards (manufactured by Schutt and Face Guard, Inc. and

National Safety Council in 1986 edition of Family Safety and Health American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry 5/91 position statement, 10/95 & 12/97 press releases, and Q&A

Dr. John B. Jeffers head of Emergency Services at Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, PA

Dixie Youth Baseball requires face-mask batting helmets. As far as I know, no other national organization does.

Use only helmets that meet the 90 miles per hour NOCSAE standard

I am not aware of any national organization that requires 90-mph helmets at any level.

Use only helmets that fit snugly; no soft baseball caps worn under the helmet

NOCSAE and instructions printed on helmets

Inspect at games to see who is not complying. I would be surprised if any league complies with these rules.

Use only helmets that do not have deteriorated interior padding

Eye injuries

Eye injuries

Eye injuries

35,000 per year, 6,000 severe enough to require hospital treatment (1985 Consumer Product Safety Commission figures) Protective eyeware prevents about 90% of sports eye injuries

Use only helmets with face guards that meet Standard F910 of the American Society for Testing and Materials standards or NOCSAE standard [manufactured by Schutt and Face Guard, Inc. and (CPSC award to Face Guard, Inc.)]

American Academy of Ophthalmology 10/8/92 news release Consumer Product Safety Commission 6/4/96 news release

Physician and Sports Medicine Journal

Prevent Blindness America 1984 statement

American Academy of Pediatrics 4/94 policy statement and table of sports and recommended eye protection

Sports Illustrated for Kids

7/12/92 ABC 20/20 segment

Dixie Youth Baseball requires face-mask batting helmets. As far as I know, no other national organization does. Many public batting cages now require face-mask batting helmets. Such businesses are easy to sue. Youth leagues apparently figure it's hard to sue them, so they will continue to ignore the injuries.

Wear protective goggles that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials Standard F803 when fielding Photos of protective goggles and face-mask batting helmets at American Academy of Ophthalmology Web site

More photos at AAO site

American Academy of Pediatrics for functionally one-eyed or previously eye-injured Prevent Blindness America six documents

Dr. John B. Jeffers head of Emergency Services at Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, PA

Protective Eyeware Council

American Academy of Ophthalmology in 4/1/99 news release

No national youth baseball organization requires protective goggles. They are now generally required at adult squash, handball, and racquet-ball courts. ASTM Standard F803 applies to both baseball and sports like squash, handball, and racquet-ball. Prevent Blindness America also puts baseball in the same category with the adult sports that require goggles.

Wear only molded polycarbonate sports frames that meet standard American Society for Testing and Materials F803 (e.g., Rec Specs), never street frames or workplace safety glasses (ANSI standard Z87)

Prevent Blindness America Dr. John B. Jeffers head of Emergency Services at Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia, PA

Protective Eyeware Council

American Academy of Ophthalmology 4/1/99 news release, M.D. tips, April tips

As far as I know, no national youth baseball organization prohibits the wearing of street frames while playing baseball. One Toms River, NJ player at the 1999 Little League World Series was wearing wire-rimmed glasses while playing!

Use only balls that meet NOCSAE standard (Worth Reduced-Injury-Factor balls and Kenko balls)

Archives of Ophthalmology 3/99 study

Only the American Amateur Baseball Congress requires NOCSAE balls (12 and under).

Teeth injuries

All players should wear custom-fitted mouthguard that meets standard ASTM F697-80 (1992) (available from your local dentist)

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry 5/91 position statement American Dental Association 6/99 news release, recommendation and photo of mouthguard

Academy for Sports Dentistry 12/6/98 position statement and ASD Newsletter Vol. 14, #3, pg 7-8, Jan. 1999

No national youth baseball organization requires mouthguards.

Use only balls that meet NOCSAE standard (Worth Reduced-Injury-Factor balls and Kenko balls)

Study by Dr. Voight Hodgson found that RIF balls reduced fractures. Head and Neck Injuries in Sports published by ASTM in 1994.

Only the American Amateur Baseball Congress requires NOCSAE balls (12 and under).

Miscellaneous injuries

No head-first sliding

American Academy of Pediatrics

Little League Baseball, Inc. prohibits head-first sliding for 12 and under.

Breakaway bases [Manufactured by Rogers Sports Corp. (CPSC award)] Here is an e-mail I got from Rogers: Dear John,

I am Roger Hall the inventor of the ROGERS BREAK AWAY BASE and I just stumbled across your information on the internet and was really surprised to find that you did not have any major league ballplayers listed as being injured because of the bases.

How about Dave Conception, Lenny Dykster, Tommy Davis, Dionne Sanders, Kent Herbeck, and hundreds of others before they started teaching them to slid head first or off to the side or feet in the air and over the base and then grabbing the base , if possible.

Forget about the highly paid pros how about the thousands of amateurs who don't have the best medical insurance and treatment like a friend of mine, who in 1960, slid into a base and injured himself causing him to go through 23 medical procedures including two amputations, caused by medical complications and died of gangrene.

Does anyone know or even care that he survived the death march in Batan during World War II and met his fate sliding into a base.

The governing bodies of baseball and softball are totally out of control when it comes to the health and well-being of the athletes. I would like to know the real reason why professional baseball has the minor leagues - OH Yeah they need to develop the talent - maybe! Have you looked at the DPL lately.


American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Product Safety Commission

I know of no national youth-baseball organization that requires these bases other than Little League Baseball who reportedly did that in recent years.

As you can see, there are some empty boxes in the above grid. If anyone can provide me with information to fill those boxes, or to correct mistakes or omissions, I would appreciate it.

Here is a list of the major national youth baseball organizations:
Amateur American Baseball Congress
American Legion Baseball
Babe Ruth Baseball
Dixie Youth Baseball
Little League Baseball, Inc.
Pony Baseball

Youth baseball is also played under the auspices of many other organizations including local park and recreation departments. In general, they have the same rules pertaining to safety, or lack of rules, as the national organizations.

I asked the various youth-baseball organizations to comment about what I said about them in my book Youth Baseball Coaching. The response from each was total silence.

Different rules for different ages

In general, the younger the players, the more likely the league is to adopt recommended safety devices. It is common for tee-ball leagues to use NOCSAE balls even when not required by national league rules. One year my local little league had child pitchers wear batting helmets at the tee ball level. (I know of no medical or safety group that recommends that, but it makes sense.) As you can see in the table above, a number of rules apply to the 12-and-under age group in certain leagues. In some cases, the medical and safety groups themselves have put such age limits in their recommendations.

Is there a medical basis for such differentiation between age groups? A CPSC study said 75% of baseball injuries occur in the 10 to 14 age group, which suggests that a cutoff of 12 is too low. There is a lower incidence of injuries at the older age levels because less athletic kids have dropped out and the susceptibility to chest impact fatalities is apparently lower. But there seems to be no reason not to prevent even that lower rate of injury. I wore all the recommended safety equipment as an adult player. I interviewed a Maine dentist who also plays adult baseball. He, too, wears the recommended safety equipment. I suspect the main reason for not recommending that these safety rules and equipment apply to all youth levels (up to age 18) is the fact that teenage boys, being the prime group suffering from concern about their manhood, will complain extremely loudly if required to use safety equipment, or abide by safety rules, which do not apply to college or pro players. Teenage complaining should not be a factor either at the medical and safety organizations or at the leagues. Not applying safety requirements to certain age groups should only be done when scientific testing proves that the risk is almost nonexistent at those age levels. The statistics that say there is a lower injury rate at the teenage level are cold comfort if you or your child is the one who was killed or maimed.

Why are these safety recommendations being ignored?

My book, Youth Baseball Coaching, contains a number of quotes from various observers and participants as to why youth-baseball organizations have long ignored, and continue to ignore, the almost unanimous safety recommendations of the pertinent medical and safety organizations.

Youth baseball has an image of being safe. It's an inaccurate image, but youth-baseball officials apparently figure that, "We're getting away with letting all these kids get hurt every year and no one's smart enough to realize our culpability, so why bother doing anything about it?"

Youth baseball organizations may fear losing dues-paying members to more lenient organizations if they unilaterally require recommended safety equipment. When there is a conflict between possibly losing revenue for the headquarters staff on the one hand, or seeing tens of thousands of kids get hurt on the other, staff wins and the kids lose.

Men involved in youth baseball from coach all the way up to national headquarters are insecure about their manhood. They fear that if they come out in favor of some safety equipment that has not traditionally been required, other men will raise an eyebrow, snicker, or make a snide remark. Given a choice between risking the lives, eyes, teeth, or facial bones of little boys on the one hand, or risking a question being raised about their manhood on the other, America's youth-baseball leaders make a sort of Sophie's Choice: Risk the children.

Boys also are insecure about their manhood. They secretly wish adults would make baseball safer, as evidenced by several informal studies, but they are unwilling to go public for same reasons as their fathers. (Secretly-observed kids were left alone in a large grass area and supplied with an assortment of baseballs, gloves, and bats. Initially, they played a little with each. Eventually during the first day, they gravitated to the soft Reduced-Injury-Factor ball, commonly called a "tee ball." On subsequent days, they went straight to the RIF ball. The many fathers who say the kids want to play with a "real" ball are either lying or have never tested the kids in a way that would give a true indication of their preference.)

Both mothers and fathers fear retaliation by coaches and/or league officials if they unilaterally adopt the safety recommendations by having their child wear the recommended safety equipment. They fear that, as a result, their child will not:

be chosen for the higher level teams

be assigned a good position

start in games

make all-stars.

The fathers fear that if they advocate new safety equipment they will not be

named manager

allowed to manage the highest level teams

chosen to manage or coach an all-star team

elected to high political position within the league.

Parents and children also fear ridicule from other children and adults.

These fears are well founded. After I unilaterally had my teams and sons comply with the recommended safety measures, I stopped getting manager jobs and was assigned to be the assistant to guys with no experience or less experience. My oldest son never made Little League majors or even all-stars in the minor leagues, even though he was a record-setting swimmer, high-school track star, and star football player. As a high school senior, he was the starting tailback on the only undefeated team in his school's 44-year history. His team was North Coast Section champion and ranked second in the state of California. He was recruited by Ivy League football coaches at Columbia, Dartmouth, and Yale, as well as numerous Division III colleges. He is now a rising sophomore at Columbia University and the Number 2 tailback on their varsity football team. I doubt there is any other Ivy League tailback who did not make majors in his Little League.

Many of my son's youth-baseball teammates who had lower batting averages, stolen bases, on-base averages, etc. were chosen for majors or minor-league all-star teams. Just before my son was cut by his JV high-school baseball coach, my son overheard him say, "I'm not going to have anyone on my team wearing that stupid face-mask batting helmet." Youth-baseball teammates of my son who batted several slots behind his clean-up position (I was not his coach that year) made the same high-school team.

Both I and my players and sons were routinely taunted by opposing players, coaches, and parents because of our face-mask batting helmets. The typical clever comment was, "What position do you play? Linebacker?" Thinking we were extra scared, pitchers threw at our heads more.

What to do?

Fathers needs to stop risking their sons' lives, eyes, teeth, and facial bones to avoid raising questions about the father's manhood.

Coaches needs to stop risking their players' lives, eyes, teeth, and facial bones to avoid raising questions about the coach's manhood.

Mothers need to tell fathers and coaches to find other ways to prove their manhood.

Both coaches and parents need to recognize that the safety of their children obviously takes precedence over the "office politics" of the local youth-baseball league. My son and I thoroughly enjoyed our years of baseball playing and coaching. It was a mild disappointment at first not to make the higher-level teams, but, in time, we recognized the reasons were not related to merit and just enjoyed the game of baseball at whatever level we found ourselves. There was always a team on which to play or coach. The typical player quits baseball around age eleven or twelve, so in the grand scheme of things, there was really no great need to play "Little League office politics." Better the parents should have protected their children during their brief youth-baseball careers.

All national youth-baseball organizations should have a summit meeting on safety and simultaneously adopt the recommended safety equipment so that none of them loses market share to more lenient leagues. Parents of injured players should name their national organization as a defendants in personal-injury lawsuits until they do adopt these rules.

The best safety record in baseball is held by certain local leagues whose leaders have had the courage to require recommended safety equipment. For example, the San Ramon Little League in my area required face-mask batting helmets for a while. But new leaders phased them out more recently. Many leagues in the East require face-mask batting helmets. Good for them, but there are far too few such leagues.

Field owners---school and local governments---should require that all organizations using their fields adopt the safety recommendations of responsible medical and safety organizations. Parents of injured players should name field owners as defendants in personal-injury lawsuits until they do adopt these rules.

Legislative bodies---local, state, and federal---should require that all youth-baseball organizations adopt the safety recommendations of responsible medical and safety organizations. In football, for example, it is state law that all helmets must be annually inspected and certified by licensed companies. At least one federal legislator, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, is a former Major Leaguer. (Hall of Fame pitcher with Detroit and Philadelphia)

Professional and college baseball leagues should also adopt these safety recommendations. That would all but eliminate youth resistance. The notion that such skilled athletes do not need safety equipment is nonsense. A study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found Major Leaguers suffer eye injuries at a similar rate as amateurs. True, they have better reflexes. But it is equally true that the ball goes faster at those levels, thereby canceling out the benefit of superior reflexes. Preventable injuries have robbed Major League baseball of many players including:

Major Leaguers whose careers were ended or greatly hurt by preventable injuries



Recommended equipment that probably would have prevented or minimized injury

Tony Conigliaro

Hit in the face by Jack Hamilton pitch on 8/18/67

Face-mask batting helmet that meets NOCSAE standards at 90 miles per hour

Mickey Cochrane

Hit by career-ending Bump Hadley bean ball in 1937. Fractured his skull in three places. Ten days in the hospital. He almost died.

Ray Chapman

Killed by pitch thrown at head by known bean-baller Carl May on 8/16/20

Joe Medwick

Knocked unconscious by Bob Bowman pitch in 1940

Doug Griffin

Beaned by Nolan Ryan pitch, hospitalized, and missed 51 games

Dickie Thon

Hit in temple by Mike Torres pitch

Charlie Manuel

Hit in face by Jerry Reuss pitch in 1967 and again in Japanese baseball

Matt Keough

Hit in the head by spring training line drive while sitting in dugout

RIF-10 ball or protective fencing in front of dugout

Dizzy Dean

Line drive off his toe in the 1937 All-Star Game caused him to change his mechanics and he blew out his arm as a result.

RIF-10 ball

Herb Score

Pitcher hit in the eye by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in 1957

Protective goggles, RIF-10 ball might have helped

Jim Kaat

Won 16 consecutive Golden Gloves as a pitcher, but had several teeth knocked out by a one-hopper

Mouthguard, RIF-10 ball might have helped

Bryce Florie

Red Sox pitcher was hit in the eye by a 100-mph line drive on 9/8/00. Florie had 20/400 vision—legally blind without his contact lenses—before the injury. He was wearing contacts when hit. The ball shattered the bones around his eye, knocked him unconscious, and broke his nose. A titanium plate was neded to replace the facial bones. When Sports Illustrated wrote a long article about the injury in the 11/27/2000 issue, he still had blood behind his retina, a condition which needs to correct itself for recovery. He is attempting a comeback. Note that I described this type of injury in great detail in Youth Baseball Coaching, which came out seven months before Florie got hit.

Protective goggles, RIF-10 ball might have helped

Billy Martin

Beaned by Tex Clevenger. Read his autobiograhpy for complete details on how it effected him. He attributes his decision to break pitcher Jim Brewer's jaw to his being beaned. His stats declined.

Face-mask batting helmet that meets NOCSAE standards at 90 miles per hour

Al Cowens

Beaned by Ed Farmer in 1979. Upon returned charged Ed Farmer on the mound. Cowens numbers never the same.

Face-mask batting helmet that meets NOCSAE standards at 90 miles per hour

Jimmy Piersall

Co-author of the book Fear Strikes Out, which was a major motion picture by Paramount in 1957. Film features a scene in which Piersall is terrorized as a boy by his father who throws ever faster balls at him to catch.

All recommended safety equipment

If you know of any other Major Leaguers who were injured in games because of lack of recommended protective equipment, please send me an email about them so I can add them to this list. Thanks. Click here to see a letter a reader sent me on this subject.

The 3/27/00 Sports Illustrated had an article about C405 aluminum bats causing a higher rate of serious injuries to pitchers in college baseball. Arizona State University pitcher Ryan Mills got his jaw broken. University of Houston pitcher Danny Crawford lost five teeth. Cal State-Northridge pitcher Andrew Sanchez's skull was fractured. The basic message of the article was that injuries increased when the new bat was allowed in 1996. NCAA was going to change the standard to a safer one, but stopped when they were sued by Easton. A couple of points:

Pitcher injuries did not start with the C405. It may make them worse, but the basic danger and the same injuries have always been there regardless of bat material. Pitchers being hurt by batted balls stems primarily from the proximity to the plate and the vulnerable body position of pitchers at the moment of bat contact with the ball, not the composition of the bat.

Making the bats less dangerous is a step in the right direction, but requiring protective goggles, mouthguards, and maybe even pitcher helmets at the college level, are obviously also indicated.

Requiring college pitchers to wear helmets probably seems overly cautious. That consensus will end with the first fatality. I suspect NCAA should has more to fear from the suit by the parents of that first dead college pitcher than from any suit by Easton.

The medical and safety authorities who have issued the various recommendations took a step in the right direction. But where's the follow up? There has been no diminution in youth baseball injuries except in Dixie Baseball and the American Amateur Baseball Congress. And those two organizations still have too many injuries not covered by the one recommendation each that they followed. All pertinent medical and safety organizations should step up their efforts with a goal of results, not just getting their good intentions on the record.

Established Major League stars, like Mark McGwire, should unilaterally start using recommended safety equipment, namely, face-mask batting helmets, mouthguards, and protective goggles. If McGwire did that, tens of thousands of kids would follow his example, thereby saving the eyes, teeth, and facial bones of hundreds of kids. The only Major Leaguer I know of who ever voluntarily wore recommended safety equipment was Chris Sabo. He wore protective goggles at third base and, as far as I know, it was not in response to a previous injury. A number of pros have worn face-mask batting helmets while their broken jaw healed or some such. Then they went back to not wearing them. Those guys are not role models. They're real slow learners. There ought to be an award for Major Leaguers who voluntarily wear face masks, goggles, or mouthguards. Call it the Chris Sabo Award. (I read in 2000 that Dodgers manager Davey Johnson was making fun of one of his pitchers who wore protective prescription goggles. How would he feel now if the pitcher had stopped wearing them and sufferd a Bryce Florie type injury?)

Big stars usually have a favorite charity. I have always suspected they do it for the cynical reason of increasing popularity in order to get endorsement contracts and post-playing-career broadcasting gigs. How about a cause that directly saves children from being injured? You don't even have to make any extra public appearances. Just set a safe example in your games.

If no active Major Leaguer has the guts to follow Chris Sabo's example, because he is afraid of losing playing time or endorsement income or of being ridiculed, how about some retired players? Joe Garagiola has set a fabulous example with his crusade against chewing tobacco (National Spit Tobacco Education Program, 312-836-9900).

How about some former Major Leaguer who was injured crusading for protective equipment that would have prevented his and other injuries? Surely there must be many former pros whose children, nephews or nieces, cousins, or grandchildren were seriously injured while playing baseball or softball. It doesn't even have to be the relative of an injured person. It could just be a former Major Leaguer with enough common sense to recognize the danger without a personal tragedy. Why can't one or more of them come forward, like former NFL linebacker Nick Buoniconti did when his son was paralyzed by a spinal injury in football (The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis), and lend their credibility to this cause? The Buoniconti Fund faces a daunting task---curing paralysis. In contrast, wiping out baseball eye, teeth, and facial injuries is a piece of cake. It can literally be done in one year if someone with the power only has the will.

Pros adopt base coach helmet rule following Coolbaugh death; not amateurs
On 7/22/07, Tulsa Drillers first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh, a former Major Lague player died after being hit in the head by a four ball line drive during a Texas League game. To their belated credit, Major Leaggue Baseball subsequently adopted a rule that base coaches have to wear helmets in the majors and minors. Predictably, no amateur league, that is high school and college, followed suit. See the story at

Youth leagues typically require child base coaches to wear helmets, but not adults. Indeed, youth leagues permit adult baseball coaches to serve as base coaches, but they provide no helmets even for optional use by the coaches. Such coaches would have to, and should, purchase helmets at their own expense. But they do not because they are insecure about their manhood and would rather risk death or serious injury than be made fun of or snickered at by their fellow adults. The same motivation applies to the high school and college baseball coaches.

Are these additional safety items overprotection?

Because we have generally not had mandatory face-mask batting helmets, goggles, mouthguards, and safety balls in baseball, the recommendations seem excessive and unnecessary to many. It got back to me that the president of our local Little League said of my efforts, “They’re trying to turn our kids into a bunch of wussies.”

Two points:

I do not recommend that every safety device be adopted. Baseball periodicals contain ads for flak jackets, hand-sting protectors, and other safety devices. Neither I nor the pertinent medical authorities recommend those devices be required. College and high-school rules require only bats that have no more than a certain drop between length and weight. The 32-inch, 23-ounce bat I used briefly in adult baseball would be illegal in high school and college. Carlton College requires that opposing baseball teams use only wooden bats. But I have not yet come out against non-wooden bats or those with large drops between length and weight, nor have the various medical and safety authorities. Rather I am only recommending that baseball behave like football and hockey, that is, adopt as mandatory all safety equipment recommended by established medical and safety groups like those named above.

These cries of “wuss” or “sissy” or “chicken” have been heard since the beginning of sports. In 1875, Boston first baseman Charles C. Waite wore the first glove while playing baseball—a tan work glove that was open in the back in the hope no one would notice. They did and ridiculed him unmercifully as a sissy. Within 20 years, all players wore gloves. Jim Dent’s book The Junction Boys is about Bear Bryant’s first year coaching at Texas A&M. A&M wore face-mask football helmets in 1954, when many other teams did not. At their Baylor game, opposing fans taunted, “You boys oughta peel off them sissy face guards!” Similar childish insults were hurled at the early advocates of the following now-mandatory sports-safety items:

football helmets
football face masks
football mouthguards
hockey mouthguards
catchers' and umpires' masks
catchers' and umpires' shin guards
umpires' steel-toed shoes
high-jump and pole-vault landing pads
soccer shin guards
boxing helmets
boxing mouthguards
lacrosse face-mask helmets

catchers' and umpires' chest protectors
catchers' and umpires' throat protectors
protective cups
football shoulder pads
hockey goalie masks
hockey eye shields
racquet-ball, squash, and hand-ball protective goggles
bicycle helmets
race car seat belts
horseback riding helmets
wrestling helmets

In each and every case, those who ridiculed early advocates of these items are now regarded as macho idiots. There can be no question that the currently recommended baseball safety equipment will eventually be required. The only question is how long the various opponents are going to be on the wrong side of this issue—and how many children they will kill or maim in the interim.

Maryland considering requiring face masks and goggles

According to Jill Rosen of the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland general assembly was considering requiring face masks and goggles in 2006, although they seemed to think it would die in committee.

The politicians opposed to it had the usual idiotic, mindless arguments:

It would require “helmet police.” No, it wouldn’t. Did bicycle helmet laws require “helmet police?” The coaches, league officials, and umpires will enforce the new rules. They will simply buy the stuff at the beginning of the season and never think about it again.

no reason for “the government to meddle on the baseball diamond.” That’s total bull! How many kids have to die or get maimed before it arises to the level of a reason to “meddle?”

some things are “best left up to the family.” True, but baseball safety sure as hell is not one of them. It has been left up to the families for decades and the families have shown that they are literally willing to sacrifice their own child’s teeth, eyes, facial bones, and lives rather than be different or wussy. If these same parents were inflicting these injuries on these children in the home, the same politicians would self-righteously demand they be placed in foster homes and that the parents go to jail.

don’t want to “do anything to squelch getting parents to coach.” And exactly what kind of parents would requiring safety equipment recommended by doctors drive away from coaching? Wouldn’t they be precisely the kind of parents we wouldn’t want within 100 yards of our kids?

it would “inhibit their ability to bat.” That is total bull! Don’t these people feel the need to do any homework before they spout such nonsense. Major Leaguers have worn protective face masks and goggles on occasion.

“You can’t protect everybody from everything in this world.”Who said you could? What relevance does that have to this issue? We can protect kids from loss of teeth, eyes, and facial bones in baseball and softball and we deserve to be horsewhipped if we do not.

Let's be careful out there,

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