The Camouflage Bat

On April 9, 1932, Leon "Goose" Goslin of the St. Louis Browns stepped up to the plate with a striped "camouflage bat" during an exhibition game against the Cardinals. The bat was "designed to confuse the pitcher and fool the infield players." The Cardinals didn't object so Goslin used it.

But when he tried to use the bat again three days later during the opening game of the season against the Chicago White Sox, the umpire declared "That's not our kind, Goslin!" and forced him to use a regular bat.

The next day, William Harridge, President of the American League, ruled out any further use of the camouflage bat.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Apr 14, 1932

     Posted By: Alex - Sat Dec 19, 2020
     Category: Magic and Illusions and Sleight of Hand | Sports | 1930s

Now, I'm a poor little European and I only understand cricket (and I'm unusual even in that, as I'm not a Brexiteer), but... how would this work at all?

I mean, a camouflage ball, yes, that I could understand! The batsman not being able to properly see the ball being pitched at him, that would be a massive disadvantage. And even a camouflage uniform, silly as it would look, would make it harder for the basemen(?) to touch te runner out. Sure. But the bat!? Making it harder for the pitcher to see where the batsman was... I dunno, flexing his biceps?

It's not as if it's a penalty kick, where the kicker is trying to kick the ball just as the goalie is diving, and in the other corner. The pitcher pitches first, not just-about-split-second first, but first; and the batsman is definitely reacting to that. The position of the bat, if the pitcher is even remotely competent, shouldn't make a difference.

So, dear Americans, please explain to me - why was this even an issue?
Posted by Richard Bos on 12/19/20 at 01:59 PM
Richard--I am a total non-sports person, but here's my guess. Different players have different stances. The bat can be held in different positions. A pitcher must take cognizance of these. If the bat is "invisible" or hard to read, then the pitcher would have trouble gauging the whole man-baseball bat gestalt, and be unable to properly deliver his pitch.
Posted by Paul on 12/19/20 at 02:45 PM
@Paul: sure - but camouflage like that doesn't work on a bat held still, unless the environment is striped. Which it isn't, unless you're fielding an entire team of American Football umpires. If you keep position, the pitcher only needs a fraction of a second to see through such a "camouflage". If you don't - well, AFAIAA, that's not even legal in baseball.
Posted by Richard Bos on 12/19/20 at 02:51 PM
Boys, it al boils down to who wants to feel that he has some power over how the game proceeds, whether it makes any sense or not. I remember during the Finley - Martin era of the Oakland A's when a colored ball was used and there were complaints, not because the ball wasn't white, but because "we don't do things that way." It was still round and flew off the bat at the same speeds.
Posted by KDP on 12/19/20 at 03:58 PM
Goose Goslin is not to be confused with the more recent baseball player Goose Gossage.
Posted by ges on 12/19/20 at 06:14 PM
Disclaimer: I have not played baseball in more than fifty years, I do not follow the game or its players, and I truly, deeply believe that team sports are anathema to civilized society.

If I had to guess: Both the angle of the arc of the bat (level or rising) and the point of ball contact (on center or above center) determine whether it's a line drive, high arc, pop, etc. or shades in-between. Being able to see these aspects clearly might give infielders precious fractions of a second more time to prepare. Long before being able to determine actual flight of the ball by observation, they'd know whether they might have to back up, jump, move forward, dive, etc..

I wondered why the baseball looked like it was getting bigger, then it hit me.

Posted by Phideaux on 12/19/20 at 06:45 PM
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