May 09, 2012

Charlie and the Canadian Mask Factory

Charlie O'Brien, 1989 Topps

If I were to tell you that Charlie O’Brien, the person you see here, revolutionized the game of baseball, would you believe me? Well, you should, because it’s true.

But how, you ask? Here are some excellent guesses made by no one in particular, and I will examine which guess is correct. Feel free to play at home!

Did Charlie O’Brien change the game of baseball by …

 … being the first person to wear a helmet with zero earflaps?

Unfortunately, no. Many players before Charlie O’Brien sported the earflapless helmet. However, it should be noted that, via this very card, O’Brien brought the earflapless helmet controversy to the forefront. Suddenly, people were like, “Geez, that thing looks stupid. A gust of wind could knock that off his head, which doesn’t bode well for the prospects of a 90-mph fastball to the dome. I want to take that thing off his head and put a scoop of ice cream in it. Mommy, there’s a curly red hair in my ice cream! Ha, ha. Word.” That is exactly the thing many people were saying. Anyway, after Thomas Edison viewed this card, he got the idea to invent earflaps. The rest is history.

(Hint: That said, don’t dismiss the theme of protecting the face area. I’ve said too much.)

… inventing the burdensome, seemingly very hot, garbage-bag-type, long-sleeve baseball undershirt?

Another great guess, but … no. Few people appeared to be as comfortable in this undergarment as O’Brien, but he was not the first to wear it. Many players in the mid-to-late 80s wore the burdensome, crinkly, underbag, and a few even lived to tell about it. The others died of heat exhaustion. O’Brien himself was once quoted as saying, “It’s great! It really allows me to slow down my swing, because I can’t move my arms. And the noise it makes while doing anything really blocks out the jeers of the crowd when we’re on the road. I’ve lost 80 lbs!” The underbag was the brainchild of Jorge Costanza, and eventually led to Under Armor. The differences between the underbag and the modern Under Armor shirt are virtually indistinguishable.

… being the first catcher with a red, curly mullet to pose while wearing an earflapless helmet and a garbage bag underneath this jersey?

Maybe. I did not know how to look that up.

… inventing the All-Star MVP, the first hockey-style catcher’s mask?

Ding, ding, ding! You are correct! Granted, there was no possible way of knowing that simply by looking at this picture, or by possessing common knowledge. Nevertheless! According to Wiki:

After getting hit in his mask by two consecutive foul-tip balls in a game, O'Brien had the idea for a new catcher's mask while he was watching a hockey game. He worked with Van Velden Mask Inc., of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, to develop his idea. The new design, called the All-Star MVP, was approved in 1996 by Major League Baseball.

Before the All-Star MVP, catchers wore a mask with one bar across the front, like the old NFL punters. So this was a big deal for catchers’ faces. I, by the way, am also inspired by great ideas while watching hockey. For example, I frequently get the idea to change the channel. Jk! Hockey joke, not meant to be offensive! Everybody relax!

So O’Brien won a title with the ’95 Braves, hit 56 career ding-dongs, and helped entire generations of future catchers protect their dome pieces. Not too shabby. Here is a picture of Charlie O’Brien not wearing a helmet and protecting himself against the onslaught of a New York Italian person. Have a great day, everyone!

1 comment:

1967ers said...

I actually do remember him doing that. It was a Jays thing.