Home British baseballProject COBB Countdown to SABR Day 2011: 1920s Cobbette – British reluctance to use protective equipment

Countdown to SABR Day 2011: 1920s Cobbette – British reluctance to use protective equipment

by Joe Gray

Cobbette-(128x128)This is post eight in a ten-post countdown to SABR Day 2011. The series is going through the decades of the 20th Century, backwards from the 1990s. On SABR Day itself, there will be a special feature on the 1890s, which will celebrate the significant link between keeping score and baseball history. This article will be published at 05:00 British time in order to coincide with the start of the day in the time-zone of the Cleveland-based SABR office. To view all the Cobbettes published to date, click here.


One of countless short bursts of localized impetus for baseball’s growth in Britain came with students from the United States forming an exhibition team in Oxford in 1926. Their purpose was to entertain visitors from their country with games against local sides. This was to last up till June, with Brits given the task of taking up the mantle thereafter. This was during a stagnant period in Britain’s baseball history.

The story was picked up by the New York Times (18 September 1925) and was described in an article that also offered an appraisal of British aptitude for the game. Batters were described as having the “stance and the swing” of a cricketer, and pitchers were said to use “the stiff overhand delivery of the cricket bowler.”

More amusing than this were comments on the British dislike for protective equipment. It was stated that gloves were worn but were “often thrown aside in the excitement of play.” Furthermore, the following comment was made on catcher’s masks:

“The catchers disdain to don the mask, considering that the wearing of the wire face-protector would be effeminate.”

In a summary comment, the New York Times scribe wrote:

“Comments upon their ‘form’ hardly encourage the hope that they could hold their own against tail-enders in an American bush league.”

If you have an interesting history snippet to share that has a link to Britain then please send a message to Joe Gray through the Get in contact page. To see all of the work of Project Cobb, which is a Chartered Community of SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), click here.

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1 comment

Matt Smith January 9, 2011 - 9:28 am

Interesting post, as always.

The comment about catcher’s masks is a good example of things coming full circle. Now that wicket-keepers stand up to the stumps so much in one-day/T-20 cricket, catcher’s masks are being loooked at as an alternative to the standard helmet. I know South Africa’s Mark Boucher has talked of using one


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