The history of baseball cleats can be traced back to the origins of baseball in the mid-1840s. Cleats have been a mainstay in baseball leagues since then. As in any competitive sport, players sought ways to gain an advantage over their rivals. A player named Paul Butler was the first to invent baseball cleats that were attached to soft leather shoes and it became a staple in baseball history.
From the very first pitch in the 1840s, baseball players knew that having stable footing in the field would be a competitive benefit they could use to their advantage. Players would have metal smiths forge two plates in a triangle shape with protruding "spikes" from each tip of the triangle and have them attached to their shoes. One plate was attached to the heel and the other attached to the front of the shoe forming the first known baseball cleats.
The preferred style of shoe was a soft leather. The advantages it gave a ballplayer were flexibility but it was uncomfortable and lacked a supportive arch that players today enjoy because of technically advanced improvements in air-cushioned soles.
Advances in technology along with a change in baseball regulations made it possible for molded rubber to enter the baseball world. There had been a high number of recorded baseball injuries because of the metal spikes. Players in the early era of baseball had been known to sharpen their spikes with the intent of using their shoes as a weapon while sliding into a base. Baseball rule makers cited a need for a change and created a rule that rubber cleats would be used in all amateur baseball games and that major leaguers could still use metal but the spikes had to be rounded off into a blunted end.
Black had been the standard color issue for baseball cleats through the 1950s. In the 1960s, two colorful baseball team owners (Charley Finley of the Kansas City A's and Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox) wanted more style added to the game. Both owners lobbied for colored cleats to match the team uniforms. It became baseball's unheralded second breaking of the color barrier. Nowadays, baseball cleats are available in multiple colors.
Baseball cleats in today's game have been modified to all playing field surfaces. Artificial turf fields replaced some grass fields in the 1960s and required a shorter cleat for the players. Baseball cleats are now made with detachable cleats that can be fitted with shorter or longer cleats for both artificial and natural grass fields.
- Photo Credit soccer shoe image by Daniel Gillies from Fotolia.com
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