With a national spotlight on injuries and safety in sports,
the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning
Center examines the fascinating history of baseball and hockey facial protection
with a new exhibit: Saving Face: The
Evolution of the Catcher and Goalie Mask, to run from April 1 – October 4,
As the last line of defense, baseball catchers and hockey
goalies play the most perilous positions in their sports. Besides mental
stress, they face speeding fastballs and flying pucks, coming at them like
missiles out of a fog.
They are part psychologists, part acrobats, part traffic
cops and full-time protectors of home plate and the goal crease, respectively. And
the mask is their most valuable – and personal – piece of armor.
The exhibit includes some of sports’ most iconic game facewear, including Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers’ famous stitched mask,
regarded as the most recognizable goalie mask of all time. Featuring some of
baseball and hockey’s primitive facial protection, the exhibit also includes
the masks of current stars such as Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and
Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
Ironically, baseball and hockey masks were inspired by
another sport: fencing. In 1876, Fred Thayer, a Harvard baseball captain, designed
and patented the first catcher’s mask, adapted from ones worn by his school’s
fencing team. About 50 years later, a Queens University goalie, Elizabeth
Graham, donned a fencing mask to protect her teeth, the first recorded
instance of a goalie wearing a mask.
Of course, baseball and hockey have evolved through the
years, and so have safety, style and technology. With widespread concern about
concussions and other long-term health issues, Saving Face is designed to
promote more awareness and education on sports safety.
The Museum will also be hosting an April 21 symposium, Play Hard, Play Right: Making Youth Sports Safer, which is being sponsored by the Richard Becher Memorial Foundation for Safety in Sports. The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information about the exhibit and symposium, call 973-655-2378.