The Beginning of Baseball Gloves and the Catcher's Mask
Catchers were wearing gloves well before their teammates, who did not deign to don them until the mid-to-late 1870s. Until then, a player's manhood was questioned if he showed up with a glove, even one with no padding or finger coverage. In 1877, Chicago first baseman Albert Spalding risked ridicule wearing a finger-less glove in the hope that it would inspire others to do likewise and generate sales for his fledgling sporting-goods company. Spalding's temporary brush with humiliation paid off; in time, other infielders, then outfielders, and finally, in the early 1880s, pitchers took to wearing gloves.
Meanwhile, the catcher's mask made its first appearance in 1877 when Harvard's James Tyng wore one that his roommate, Fred Thayer, constructed for him. By 1884, when Wright & Ditson ran this advertisement, catchers' masks were commonplace and their "open-sight" design differed from Thayer's model.