PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Muse, a longtime Pittsburgh Pirates executive who created baseball's modern batting helmet, has died.
Muse died May 5 in Sun City Center, Fla., at age 87, the Pirates said. He had lived there since retiring in 1989 after 52 years with the team -- many as the traveling secretary.
He was renowned with the Pirates for his honesty and thriftiness, often taking public transportation to the ballpark rather than more expensive taxis. He worked for the organization in a variety of roles, including ticket manager and head groundskeeper.
Muse was nicknamed "The Colonel" because of his all-business approach, and it was his military-like ability to improvise that helped speed the invention of the batting helmet.
Until former Pirates general manager Branch Rickey pushed in the early 1950s for the creation of a protective helmet, batters traditionally wore only their cloth caps to the plate. At the time, Rickey owned American Baseball Cap Inc., and he chose Muse to run the company and design a suitable helmet.
"It [the development] was more difficult than people would think," Muse told The Associated Press in a 1989 interview. "The players laughed at the first helmets, called them miner's helmets. They said the only players who would wear them were sissies."
Muse worked with inventor Ralph Davia and designer Ed Crick to perfect a helmet that was strong, light and aesthetically pleasing. They went through numerous designs before coming up with a comfortable plastic helmet that provided maximum protection above the ears, the most vulnerable area for batters.
Muse later had a prototype of the helmet molded into a lamp that sat on his office desk for years.
The Pirates were the first team to wear the helmets in 1952 and 1953, and their adoption was speeded after the Braves' Joe Adcock was beaned so severely by the Dodgers' Clem Labine on Aug. 1, 1954, that he was unconscious for 15 minutes.
Adcock said the helmet may have saved him from a severe injury, and the next day the Brooklyn Dodgers ordered all players in their organization to begin wearing helmets. Other teams quickly followed.
"There's no doubt about it, there was tremendous personal satisfaction from seeing the helmet become popular ... to see it save players from serious beanings," Muse said in 1989.
Muse was a Minor League catcher and manager before and after serving as an Army captain in World War II and the Korean War, and occasionally donned catcher's gear even in his early 70s to catch Spring Training batting practice.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.