1903 Base Ball CatcherPosted: September 26, 2016
I stumbled across this image last night of an application submitted in 1903, and apparently approved in 1904, for a patent on a Base Ball Catcher. This contraption appears to have been intended to replace the need for a catcher’s mitt, featuring a square cage mounted to the front of the catcher’s chest protector. I haven’t been able to find much information about this device beyond the drawing, but it appears that the mounted box features two inward-swinging gates (labeled #5 and #6 in the drawing) to allow the ball to enter the box and then get trapped inside. The ball could then be released via the tube below (#10).
An internet search for “James Edward Barnett,” who appears to have been the inventor of this strange piece of equipment, did not yield any further information. I would be curious to learn what Mr. Barnett thought about the practicality of this contraption. Catching high popped foul balls, for example, would prove rather difficult with this, as would throwing out potential base stealers or picking off runners. I suppose a positive would be that, if the catcher is required to always set up the same way, it could potentially remove some uncertainty about the strike zone. On the other hand, wild pitches and passed balls would become quite a nuisance. Furthermore, wearing this thing does not appear very comfortable and, frankly, I’m not sure I would be willing to take a Randy Johnson fastball directly to the chest, no matter how much padding this gadget promises to provide.