This one’s for you, Dan

Until about 1875 or 1877, catchers stood off to one side, to avoid getting hit.  Harvard University coach Fred Thayer, thought his catcher would have an advantage if he stood right behind the plate; however, his student refused.   He had been hit by foul tips and had become timid. 

Thayer’s solution: armor.  He took a fencer’s mask to a tinsmith, and had eye-holes cut in the wire mesh.  Thayer later changed the mesh to wide-spaced iron bars, adding forehead and chin rests.  He patented the mask in 1878, with immediate popularity.  In 1885, chest protectors were added.

Uncle John’s Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader