PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Muse, a longtime Pittsburgh Pirates executive who created baseball's modern batting helmet, died May 5 in Sun City Center, Fla., the Pirates said. He was 87.
Mr. Muse had retired in 1989 after 52 years with the team, many as the traveling secretary. He 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 helmet, batters traditionally wore only their cloth caps to the plate. At the time, Rickey owned American Baseball Cap Inc., and he chose Mr. Muse to run the company and design a suitable helmet.
Developing the helmet ''was more difficult than people would think," Mr. Muse said 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."
Mr. Muse worked with inventor Ralph Davia and designer Ed Crick to perfect a helmet. 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.
The Pirates were the first team to wear the helmets, in 1952 and 1953, and the popularity of the helmets increased after the Braves' Joe Adcock, who was wearing a helmet, was beaned by the Dodgers' Clem Labine in 1954. Adcock said the helmet may have saved him from a severe injury.
The next day, the Brooklyn Dodgers ordered all players in their organization to wear helmets. Other teams quickly followed.
Mr. Muse was a minor league catcher and manager before and after serving as an Army captain in World War II and the Korean War.
He occasionally donned catcher's gear even in his early 70s to catch batting practice at spring training.