Apr 12, 2022 - Sports

1941 tragedy at OSU ballfield helped lead to equipment changes

A baseball batting helmet resting on a bat.

Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images

After getting hit on the head by an errant pitch, Albert Davison Jr. told fellow players trying out for Ohio State's freshman team he was OK.

  • Only when the 19-year-old dairy technology student returned home later that night did he start feeling ill. Davison died a day later, on April 10, 1941, according to the book "Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities, 1862-2007."

Why it matters: It took tragedies like Davison's death 81 years ago this week to convince sports officials in Columbus and across the country to widely embrace the use of safety equipment.

Flashback: Nearly two-dozen Ohioans were killed between 1888 and 1964 after being struck by baseballs without wearing batting helmets, per research in the book.

  • This includes two other incidents in Columbus: A 17-year-old who died in 1888 after being hit during a morning pick-up game, and a 22-year-old baker killed in an alleyway game of catch.

The big picture: Shortly after Davison died, a university trainer built protective headgear for OSU players to wear during batting practice.

  • Not until decades later were all collegiate and professional hitters forced to wear helmets during live games — a requirement that has largely prevented further tragedies like the one on that Buckeyes baseball diamond in 1941.

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