Science & Technology That Revolutionized Sports

Like any human endeavor, sports evolve over time. Science and technology fuel these changes, improving athletic equipment design, training, and the value of information gleaned from player statistics. From everyday recreational activities to the highest levels of competitive play, these innovations were real game-changers for sports. These breakthroughs, in my eyes, have had the biggest impact.

Baseball –  Tommy John Surgery (1974)


Dr. Frank Jobe and Tommy John in trainer’s room at Dodger Stadium. [Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers]

Thousands of pitchers who play Major League Baseball have undergone the same elbow reconstruction surgery. First performed in 1974 by the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgery was only an experiment when Dr. Jobe first tried it on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. Today, the surgery is routine. Although arthroscopy has revolutionized the way surgeons approach orthopedics, Tommy John surgery hasn’t changed much (probably because Jobe designed the operation to be minimally invasive). Who knows? Pitchers such as Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, and many others might have faded into oblivion, were it not for Dr. Jobe.

Football – Helmet Audio (1994)

Patent drawing for football helmet radio


Though the Cleveland Browns experimented with the idea of placing homemade radio receivers inside the helmet of quarterback George Ratterman in 1956, it wasn’t until 1994 that the NFL first allowed quarterbacks to use built-in radios inside their helmets to communicate with football coaches on the sidelines.

Tennis – Composite Tennis Rackets (1968)

1970s ad for Wilson's T2000 tennis racket

1970s ad for Wilson’s T2000 tennis racket

Until the 1970s, tennis rackets were only fashioned out of wood. Although the functionality of wooden rackets improved with advancements in laminating technology (using thin layers of wood glued together) and in stringing methods, the rackets were still relatively heavy and the surface area of racket heads remained small. Compared to modern rackets used today, even the best-made wood rackets were unwieldy and lacking in power. Then, in 1968, Wilson introduced its T2000, the first steel racket on the market. The popularity of the T2000 racket skyrocketed after Jimmy Connors adopted it as his own.

Basketball – Breakaway Rims (1976)

That the NBA needed a new kind of basketball hoop became more and more obvious as slam-dunking became increasingly popular during the 1970s. If dunks didn’t damage the hoop completely, they shattered the backboard, putting the safety of players and spectators at risk. Not to mention that NBA games were often delayed for hours while the equipment was replaced. With a hunch that technology to build a better hoop must exist, Randy Albrecht, an assistant college basketball coach, approached his uncle Arthur Ehrat, a grain elevator worker, to explore the idea. Ehrat added a hinge and a spring from a John Deere cultivator to a basketball hoop rim. With the new setup, the iron basketball rim could bend–and immediately snap back into place–under pressure.

A Brief Look at Baseball in New York City

New York Giants 1913 (Wikipedia)

New York Giants 1913 (Wikipedia)

As one of the owners of the New York Yankees, I feel honored to be part of New York City’s longstanding history of bringing baseball to the city. With the Yankees and Mets both starting the season off hot, New Yorkers of both fandoms have something to root for this year. Then again, even during their worst moments both teams have their faithful fans to make sure they are there when their team turns it back around. No matter the season, New York has a deep history with baseball.

Even though New York is home to multiple high caliber franchises from every sport, it can be argued that the city remains a baseball one at heart. Since its first game in 1858, pitting the Brooklyn all-stars against the Manhattan all-stars, the city has fallen in love with taking in games across the five boroughs. Baseball fans are sure to recall some of the major clubs that helped create the city’s legacy. Clubs like the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants not only brought history to the game, but also brought it to the city.

Jackie Robinson, 1950 (Wikipedia)

Jackie Robinson, 1950 (Wikipedia)

With players like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays suiting up in New York, the city housed amazing talent with history-making players. While the two clubs departed for the west coast in 1957, the city fondly remembers these organizations to this day. If you get the opportunity, speak with an older fan from New York. Get them to discuss the era where the Dodgers and Giants were in town and you’re sure to hear some legendary tales. Some may still hurt for them moving, but you’re sure to hear some legendary tales as well.

Then, 1962 saw the Mets come to Queens and fill the void. By 1969, the Miracle Mets made history like their rivals in the Bronx.

Outside the Dodgers and Giants, New York was also a significant destination for the Negro leagues, the National Colored Base Ball League. In fact, the city supported the first Negro baseball league game back in 1859.

Currently, Major League Baseball’s headquarters are located in Manhattan–a symbol that baseball and New York are deeply connected.

Today, baseball is still alive in the city. You may not be able to find lots filled with kids playing pickup games as easily as you used to, but the game is still being played by kids of all ages. From the minor league teams through the five boroughs to children donning their school’s jerseys in the spring, New York’s passion with baseball doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.