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, 2015.
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.