I remember my first pair of cleats. I was nine years old, embarking on my first-ever season of organized ball. My mom took my little brother and me shopping at a local Payless — the only place my folks, understandably, would buy any kind of shoes for our growing feet. I was excited to finally be able to wear a pair of cleats. I had seen the older kids wearing them, and they just seemed so cool. After trying on multiple pairs, I wound up with a pair of black, low-top cleats with royal blue shoelaces and royal blue lettering that announced “Rawlings.”
It turns out, the concept of cleats has been around since the 1500s — and possibly even
earlier than that. King Henry VIII is documented to have owned a pair of “football boots,” created for him by the royal shoemaker, Cornelius Johnson. These special “boots” were created from a strong material (most likely leather) for the purposes for playing “football” (by which Henry likely means some early version of soccer). The earliest cleats typically featured leather, metal, or wooden studs. For those who couldn’t afford to have a special pair made, they would create their own shoe enhancements with the use of metal plates or (cringe) nails.
The process of vulcanization, a chemical process for converting rubber into a more durable material, was developed in England and the United States in the 1840s. Vulcanized rubber proved especially useful in producing shoes intended to protect the wearer’s feet, and, as a bonus, it was a much lighter material. Furthermore, vulcanized rubber proved handy when the concept of studded or spiked shoes emerged. The first known spiked leather running shoes were developed by a British company in the 1890s, and the first soccer-specific shoes were also developed at the end of the 19th century.
In the United States, meanwhile, metal spikes began to appear on baseball shoes in the 1860s, typically in a detachable form, and the first official baseball shoe appeared in 1882 when Waldo Claflin started selling leather shoes with built-in cleats marketed specifically to baseball players. The emergence of American football in the early 20th century led to widespread recognition and popularity of cleats, the first football shoes actually being baseball shoes adapted to the new sport. Over time, as sports in general continued to grow and with the advent of artificial turf, cleats evolved, and different types of cleats developed according to various sports and playing surfaces. With safety in mind, Major League Baseball banned sharp, metal spikes in 1976, leading to further developments in the plastic studs we see on cleats today.
I work with a lady who recently was telling me about how relieved she felt the day her oldest son made the decision to quit playing football. I think sports are important in terms of developing character, leadership, and teamwork, as well as maintaining a healthy populace. But I certainly can understand a parent’s concern about injuries. The numbers in this infographic are from 2012, but I imagine the numbers today are still relatively close.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go on a work-sponsored trip to Kansas City to see the American Jazz Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and Sporting Park. Information regarding the tour was sent out a couple weeks ago, and naturally, upon seeing the Negro Leagues museum on the list, I jumped at the opportunity to sign up. Initially, I found myself placed on the waiting list, as over 140 people signed up for 98 spots on the tour, but with one day remaining, enough people canceled their reservations to grant me a spot of my own.
I hadn’t seen the Jazz and Negro Leagues museums in approximately ten years, so I was eager to revisit them. With such a large group, we were split in two, and my group started in the Jazz Museum. As part of our program, an employee of the museum spent about half-an-hour speaking to us first in a somewhat-dramatized fashion about various figures during that time-period. Ironically, she also mentioned at one point that there was also a video available that we wouldn’t have time to watch during our time, and I found myself thinking that we would have been better off watching the video than watching this lady act, especially since she spoke so low at times that I eventually lost track and stopped paying attention.
Once she finally cut us loose, however, I was much happier about the experience. The Jazz Museum is rather small, though one of the best parts about it is listening to the wide variety of music tracks where various styles and techniques are demonstrated. I also enjoyed the opportunity to read and learn more about Count Basie, the great jazz pianist whom I’ve admired since my own piano-playing days.
Finally, it was on to the Negro Leagues Museum. Fortunately, this time we weren’t subjected to the animated ramblings of a wanna-be Broadway soliloquist and could jump right into the meat of the museum.
It doesn’t appear that too much has changed within the museum in the last ten years, but then, once history has occurred, it cannot be changed either (barring the appearance of a mad scientist with a DeLorean, of course). There was still the field with the bronze baseball players, the timelines of events throughout the path, the uniforms, the lockers, the equipment. I don’t recall the Golden Gloves on display during my last trip through, but somehow, I’m pretty sure they were there too.
If nothing else, going through both of these museums serves as a good reminder of where our country has been, and how much work we have yet to do with regards to segregation and equality. Every culture has so much to offer to the world in general, and it’s a shame when we, as a people, deliberately wall ourselves off from exposure to those experiences.
Lunch at the Legends followed the museums. After a tasty lunch of chicken a la mer and a bit of browsing through a vareity of stores, it was on to Sporting Park, home of Sporting KC.
Throughout the tour, I found myself thinking that it’s too bad that I’m not a soccer fan, because this stadium is truly impressive. We were shown the variety of suites and other spaces available for a wide range of events. We also had the opportunity to see the press room and the locker room.
Those chairs in the locker room, we were told, are $4,000 Ferrari seats, complete with cup holders, USB ports, and outlets. Yes, I had the chance to sit in one, and yes, they are very comfortable. Clearly, our soccer team is enjoying the good life here in Kansas City. Somehow I doubt that either the Royals or the Chiefs are enjoying such luxurious amenities.
I don’t know what next year’s tour, if there is one, will hold. If I get the opportunity to make suggestions, however, a tour of Kauffman Stadium would be at the top of my list. As many times as I’ve been to the K, there are still parts of it that I have not seen (the high-roller suites, namely), and I would be completely star-struck by the chance to sit at Alex Gordon’s or Salvador Perez’s locker. I can only hope.