Today in 1896 (other sources say 1897), the very first pitching machine was introduced. Reportedly, the machine caused several injuries but it was the start of something that would become a common thing at baseball practice.
The machine, created by Princeton professor Charles E. Hinton, is demonstrated in the university’s gymnasium. The mathematics instructor’s device resembled a rifle which shot the ball toward the batter.
The injuries the machine caused, may have been one of the reasons why Hinton was released from Princeton that year. Later, Hinton successfully introduced the machine to the University of Minnesota where he worked as an assistant professor until 1900.
But despite the injuries, the machine was versatile. It was capable to fire baseballs at various speed and even able to throw curve balls thanks to the use of two rubber-coated steel fingers at the muzzle of the pitcher.
In the decades that followed, several pitching machines were invented but the one that stuck was the ones with the spinning wheels. There is the machine with one wheel but there is also a version with two wheels that can “throw” breaking pitches.
Anyhow, as written in the prologue, the pitching machine has become a common item with batting practice. It can also be used to fire balls to the outfield so outfielders can shag fly balls.