The Evolution of Baseball Equipment
The basics of the national pasttime haven't changed much since the game first came around in the 19th century. However, baseball equipment has gone through some changes over the years. The first standards for baseball equipment were instituted in the late 19th century as the game matured. However, the 20th century has seen some changes of its own:
Evolution of Batting Equipment
For much of the 19th century, batters were mostly able to use whatever bat they liked. Convention made these early bats considerably heavier and longer than the modern bat, and with a less pronounced taper from the bat head to handle.
By the start of the 20th century, bats were a bit more standardized. They couldn't be longer than 42 inches, although most fell somewhere between 30 and 40 inches. The thickest part of the bat was fixed at 2 3/4 inches, where it remains today. These older bats were also heavier with an average weight around 48 ounces. The wood of choice was ash, but pine, hickory, and maple were also acceptable.
The greatest change in these wood bats from the early years is their weight. In the first half of the 20th century, the average bat weight fell to 40 ounces. Today, one would be hard pressed to find a major league player swinging anything heavier than 36 ounces. Weights went down as pitches started coming faster. The heavier the bat, the slower a player can swing it. With today's pitching speeds, a player would never catch up to the ball with an old bat.
Looking outside of Major League Baseball, the greatest change in batting equipment is the use of bats made from anything other than wood. Aluminum bats are the bat of choice in youth and school leagues, even at the college level. These bats are lighter than wood, but their durability has been their greatest attraction.
Evolution of Baseball Gloves
Like the baseball bat, baseball gloves weren't standardized when they were first introduced into the game. Unlike the baseball bat, the baseball glove wasn't even a part of the game until the late 19th century.
When the glove was introduced, it was seen more as protective equipment, rather than a tool to help a player field the ball better. Today, the intention of the baseball glove has changed, which has lead to its greatest evolution.
No longer protective, the purpose of the modern glove is as a tool to make baseball player's job easier. As a result, the modern glove has become specialized, with different designs intended to offer benefits to specific positions.