Giants’ first baseman Willie McCovey may have spurred a new hat style among catchers when he flattened the Dodgers’ John Roseboro with a bat n a recent game in Candlestick Park. McCovey missed a Don Sutton hummer and his follow-through resulted in his bat crashing solidly on the top of Roseboro’s head.
Johnny went down, stunned, and high above him in a private box, Giants’ President Horace Stoneham immediately composed an office memo directed at his own catcher, Tom Haller. In effect, it ordered Tom to devise some type of helmet to wear with his mask to prevent just such a thing happening to him. The next day, Tom sawed off the bill of his plastic helmet, discarded the traditional cloth cap, and went to work. He wore it only while wearing the mask and it did look strange. “Feels great,” said Tom. “Make up some more.” Reserve catcher Dick Dietz also put his stamp of approval on it and it figures that the style will sweep baseball.
“When I was with Brooklyn in 1940 or 1941,” said Giants Manager Herman Franks, “we wore an inner fiber protective strip that tucked inside the band of the hat. I think it was the first protective headgear. But it was for protection against being hit by pitches.” “It has an advantage other than protecting the skull against just what happened to Roseboro.” said Haller. “The mask slips easily when you yank it off on foul balls and you aren’t forever retrieving the cloth cap, carefully putting it back on backward and flipping the bill up so it will fit under the straps of the mask.”