SI Vault
March 03, 1969
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March 03, 1969


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Charley Wolf, former coach of the Cincinnati Royals and Detroit Pistons, is now in the car-leasing business in Cincinnati, but he is still coaching. Charley handles the seventh-and eighth-grade teams at his parish church near Fort Mitchell, Ky.

As a pro coach, Wolf had strict rules governing things like dress and curfews and personal conduct, and even at the grade-school level he remains a man with strong views. "I won't play a zone or even practice against a zone," he says. "At that age, I want to teach them individual responsibility in guarding a particular man. It's much easier going from man-to-man to a zone."

But if he is just as stern in his coaching ideas, Wolf is much more relaxed competitively. "I think we finished this season about two and 13, or something like that," he says. "We practice only one day a week and play on Saturdays."

A couple of years ago a 10-year-old boy named Lonny Gustafson was hit in the chest by a pitched ball in a Little League game in Fremont, Calif. He was not seriously injured, but he was sufficiently bruised, physically and mentally, to be kept out of baseball for the rest of that season. His father, Don Gustafson, frightened by the incident and disturbed by its implications, got to thinking and finally asked an orthopedist he knew to make up a plaster-of-Paris cast to cover Lonny's chest, including the diaphragm and the lower ribs. After the cast had hardened Don tried it on Lonny, made a few alterations here and there and then asked a plastics firm to construct an experimental model. Straps were added and—voila!—the first batter's chest protector. When it was tested in games, two youngsters who were struck in the chest were unhurt, even though one pitched ball hit a boy so hard that it bounced all the way back to the mound. Gustafson's invention was purchased by the Wilson Sporting Goods Company and is listed in Wilson's new spring-summer catalog. The lightweight protector has been made mandatory equipment for some Little League teams already, and the Air Force Academy plans to use it this spring in baseball practice.

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