A bit of baseball humor the first day of high school baseball tryouts in South Carolina.
There were no baseball cups at my high school in 1967 or 1968 or if there were, no one took any time to explain the need for one to me. Instead, we had a chest protector with an extension that hung down between our knees when we went into a squat. This chest protector probably had been acquired when catchers still set up ten or twelve feet behind the batter and caught the ball on a hop in the early 1900’s.
IT WAS AN ILLUSION OF PROTECTION! IT WAS A BELIEF IN A FALSE GOD!
Take a common household sponge and rest it against your face. Now let me uncork a baseball into it. Really, no one wants to do that. You know you are going to get a broken nose, black eye or lose some teeth. I should have known that a little extension, the thickness of a common household sponge, would not protect my little “floppies” but bought into the belief that if struck by a bounced pitch or foul tipped ball, the little boys would be ok. In other words, the seventeen-year-old me was A DUMMY!
Just so you know a foul tip on to a cup will still take your breath away. A foul tip to an unprotected man part will make you contemplate suicide to make the sickening pain stop. To quote a friend who had tried to cauterize a wound with a red-hot poker, “the pain was exquisite.” I knew exactly what she meant as I remembered a foul tip that bounced off the plate and up into my chest protector extension making solid contact with my man parts. One definition of exquisite is keen or intense. Yes, the pain was exquisite in its intensity and sharpness. It was also sickening to the point of regurgitation, and it wasn’t even a direct shot. Sick, Sick, Sick!
Strangely, somewhere in the small portion of my brain that was not dealing with pain receptors, I remember thinking, “Don’t grab them. Don’t grab them.” This I thought, despite the almost uncontrollable urge to do exactly that. “DON’T RUB IT! IT MIGHT SPIT AT YOU!” That was not likely to happen for a long, long while. Even today there still seems to be an unwritten rule that keeps a catcher, or any other player for that matter, who has just taken a hundred mile per hour shot directly off his cup, from grabbing his little danglies.
Sportscasters will skirt the issue by saying, anything other than “OOOOh, he just took one off the nads!” Well, Bob Uecker might but Curt Gowdy would say something; like “…a glancing blow to the groin” or “he has just got the air knocked out of him” as the poor catcher was being led stiff legged into the dugout for an “equipment adjustment.” As the replay unwinds, over and over, you can almost hear the collective intake of breath as millions of male baseball fans react to an event that we are all too familiar with.
Just in case you are ever in a sports trivia contest, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench holds the dubious career record for broken cups, seven. From someone who knows the truth, this should be one of his least coveted records.
Historical note: According to the Baseball Book by SI, the first protective cup was worn by Claude Berry in 1915 while catching for the Pittsburgh Rebels. Protective baseball helmets were not required until 1971. We now know which head was most important.
Don Miller’s writings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true
3 thoughts on “There Must Be Something Better…The Protective Cup”
An exquisite story!
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Thanks for the giggles and the fascinating history lesson about part of this still somewhat traditional sport. Personally, I’ve always known which head controlled the behavior of the males of the species. Perhaps it’s not surprising that your egos are also so fragile?
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