‘Innovation’ is a buzzword tossed around precariously at times, but when one truly sees innovation before the eyes it’s often shocking. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, they have an exhibit that chronicles the technological advances in recorded music. Starting with the monstrous, cumbersome machines of the early days, the visitor is entranced as the devices get smaller and smaller and more electronic. Similarly, the game of baseball has evolved in regards to its associated equipment. While the rules of the game are similar as back in the 19th century, the tools with which players play have come a long way. That evolution is on display on Milwaukee’s lakefront via a Discovery World exhibit called: Baseball – Innovations That Changed The Game, which runs through May 19.
The exhibit opened on April 1, the same day the Brewers opened the season with an extra-inning win over the Rockies. The point is that this exhibit has been open to the public for nearly two weeks now, but I thought I would take time to mention it not only because it’s fascinating for any baseball fan, but also because I appreciate special opportunities like this to see innovation firsthand and to see baseball history come to life beyond a computer or movie screen. I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the history of baseball equipment’s evolution before in various forms, but this is a really cool way to highlight how much the game’s equipment has changed from the days in which fielders didn’t wear gloves, or wore ones with no finger padding, catchers wore rudimentary contraptions and the baseball itself was manufactured in various fashions and could be considered ‘lively’ ‘medium’ or ‘dead’ based on its construction. According to a wonderful compilation on the evolution of the game by Eric Miklich, the bats at one point were allowed to be flat on one side. The story of baseball is incomplete without knowing that its fundamental equipment would go through philosophical debates, extreme permutations and technological breakthroughs before it would become recognizable as the game we watch in 2013.