The Approved Little League baseball game: a clue

Site Admin
Joined: October 25th, 2013, 6:10 am

October 28th, 2017, 6:05 pm #1

An infinitesimally small advance in an investigation into utter minutia:  
The recent passing of baseball innovator Creighton Hale reminded us 
of a question that had been raised in here a while back about the age 
of Standard Toykraft's The Approved Little League baseball game.  
At least we remember such a discussion, but darned if we can find 
any record of it in a search of the Forum Archives or in our files.  
But anyway!  

"Who's Creighton Hale?," you may be asking.  To our discredit, we 
wondered the same thing, and to be fair, he doesn't have quite the 
fame of, say, Henry Chadwick or Bill Veeck.  But Hale was the inventor 
of the modern batter's helmet.  He was also president and chief executive 
of Little League Baseball, the man behind other safety protocols in Little 
League, and partially responsible for the development of the aluminum 
bat and of improvements in military equipment.  The helmet, though, is 
the key element here.  

Here's Hale's obituary in The New York Times: ... elmet.html    
(we've saved that, so if you're interested in reading it but the page has 
expired by the time you read this, just post a reply here and request it).  
And here's Hale, by the way, in about 1959:  

Turning back to The Approved Little League baseball game -- the game 
is not uncommon, and when it's offered for sale it's usually referred to 
as a 1950s item, or with no date ascribed to it, or with any date from 
the 1940s to the 1960s.  The problem is there's no indication of a date 
of manufacture anywhere on the box, the board, the rules, or any of the 
parts and pieces.  We've always called it "circa 1960."  BoardGameGeek 
[ ... eball-game ], 
that hugely valuable but unreliable unvetted wiki, decisively calls it "1964," 
but typically without any citation for that assertion.  BGG goes on to state 
that Standard Toykraft was in operation under that name from 1933 to 
sometime short of 1980, so that's no help in pinning down a date, 
although Standard Toykraft's boardgame heyday does seem to be 
the early 1960s.  

What we remember of that previous conversation about the game is that 
the presence of the double-earflap helmet on the painfully grimacing 
little kid at the plate was the best clue we had to establishing at least 
a "no-earlier-than" date.  When was that design invented, and when 
was it introduced in Little League play?  And so we circle back to Hale, 
and at last a definitive answer:  it was invented in 1959, and made 
mandatory in Little League in 1961.  It's still unclear whether it was 
actually in use in '59, but given the problems of patenting and mass 
production, and of purchasing by regional leagues and teams, we'd 
doubt it, and say the game can be no older than 1960.  

Additional reading:  
The always informative and entertaining Mental Floss (sadly no longer 
in print, but still active on-line) assembles a list of Little League factoids here: ... e-baseball  

And the equally informative and entertaining Paul Lukas of UniWatch 
provides a somewhat sketchy history of the batting helmet here: ... lex-torres  
His mention of Larry Doby wearing a "Little League helmet" in 1956 
[ ] is curious, 
as the photo caption makes no mention of Little League, and we've 
found no mention anywhere of helmets used in Little League play 
prior to 1959-60.  However, Lukas does cite Tony Gonzalez in 1964 
wearing the first pre-molded earflap helmet used in the majors 
[ ... 1788_o.jpg ], 
and perhaps that's the basis for BoardGameGeek's 1964 assumption.  
Here, though, is a Little Leaguer in 1959 wearing a prototype of just 
the sort worn by the batter on the box lid of Approved Little League 
baseball game:  


Registered users
Registered users
Joined: January 1st, 2014, 3:04 pm

October 29th, 2017, 2:28 pm #2

Hi guys
Nothing to really add but I do share and appreciate this kind of minutia for lack of a better word.

In the past, I've spent hours trying to ascertain one piece of data in the attempt to "nail down" 
the date of something.

That's what - IMO - makes our hobby fun and interesting.
So, if you guys keep doing it?  I'll keep reading it.👍

Site Admin
Joined: October 25th, 2013, 6:10 am

October 30th, 2017, 12:38 pm #3

Thanks very much, Mike!  
After we posted that first thing, we followed some links and eventually got to this: ... elmet.html  

That's another "history of the batting helmet," compiled by Larry Granillo and featuring 
more citations, suppositions, and details than made it into the Paul Lukas article.  
That the Lukas piece is a little more streamlined may (or may not) be because some 
of Granillo's research was later deemed inaccurate -- Lukas, in his 2015 article, credits 
Granillo for some of the research Lukas used in his piece, but Granillo's article is from 

Granillo's piece does mention pre-1959 Little League helmets -- and having just said 
we'd seen no mention of such things other than the Lukas citation of Larry Doby, we 
hasten to correct ourselves here, as both articles refer to that incidence in their "1956" 
entries.  Again, though, the links they provide (which are indeed to 1956 articles and 
photos) offer no mention of Doby's head protection being of the sort then being worn 
in Little League, which in any case bears no resemblance to Hale's 1959 design.  

Apropos of absolutely nothing, we can't stop grinning at the wonderful advert for 
Sinclair Power-X Gas on the page opposite the Doby photo in Granillo's link: ... 49,6124938 
-- reminiscent of the genius work of Bruce McCall.  In fact, that whole pair of pages 
is informative and entertaining.  Solid sports coverage.  And fellers -- be sure 
to use Sanitube daily!  

Registered users
Registered users
Joined: January 1st, 2014, 3:04 pm

October 31st, 2017, 6:09 pm #4

More good stuff guys!
That's more than I ever thought I'd know about the batting helmet.

I want to say I did remember something about "fortifying" Jackie Robinson's cap?

Now who woulda thought that they came up with some kind of protective device back in 1905?  

Way too cool.  Tho kind of creepy looking?