Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Charlie O'Brien Debuts New Gear
Baseball is an ever changing game. The "take-and-rake" offensive style that has won championships for the Yankees and Red Sox, and division titles for the A's and Dodgers would never have worked in the early portion of the century. You could walk then, of course, but if you waited for the big home run, you would be waiting, waiting, and...losing. On the other hand, John McGraw's 1904 Giants won one hundred six games and had one hundred sixty-five sacrifice bunts, more than one a game. If you tried that these days, you'd bunt your way to a bunch of a 5-1 and 7-2 defeats.
In the same manner, the equipment changes. The kind of glove Honus Wagner, a shortstop, would use (you can also see it here) bares so little resemblance to the glove that Derek Jeter uses that although you can see how one got to the other, you would hardly guess they were used for the same purpose. On the other hand, some gear has remained more or less the same. Catchers' masks are one piece of equipment like that. The mask worn by Roger Bresnahan is basically the same as the one worn by Yogi Berra as the one worn by Johnny Bench as the one worn by Mike Piazza. And it might have stayed that way but for Charlie O'Brien.
O'Brien was an unremarkable catcher whose 1996 in
Changes in baseball are inevitable, and they generally happen in slow bits. Charlie O'Brien, however, made a huge leap in one game, and one that may someday relegate the traditional catchers' mask to the realm of memory.