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Friday, August 22, 2003
Updated: August 26, 12:19 AM ET
Invention Hall of Fame

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Sports has been constantly evolving since the Scottish began seeking longer distance from their golf balls. But when you look at our $400 million stadiums and watch our 24-hour sports networks and buy our $180 replica jerseys, it's easy to think that modern sports has finally reached its absolute peak, that there can be no further improvements, that there is nothing left to invent. Or at least nothing that Billy Beane hasn't already thought of first.

BEST INVENTIONS
Click here for Jim Caple's list of best inventions ever.

And then you see a commercial for the Swingaway and you have to re-evaluate everything.

What are the greatest inventions in sports history? Like the California gubernatorial recall, there are hundreds of candidates but these are the 10 we consider indispensable:

1. Instant replay
Admit it. You're so dependent on this that when you go to a Little League game and there's a close play, you instinctively look to the scoreboard for the replay.

Angie Harmon & Jason Sehorn
Jason's a lucky guy -- lucky he had a face mask.
2. Nerf
It's not quite as amazing as Flubber but it does have the very substantial benefit of having actually been invented.

3. Protective cups
Do I really need to point out the importance of this? I didn't think so.

4. Face masks
This is just a guess, but I bet Jason Sehorn would not have gotten Angie Harmon if he hadn't been able to wear one of these for the past decade.

5. Batting helmets
Picture a batter stepping in against Roger Clemens without them.

6. Baseball caps
It's not only a practical piece of equipment for keeping the sun out of your eyes, it's a time-tested fashion statement as American as the cowboy hat. And imagine what Matt Williams' career would have been like without it.

7. Baseball cards
The most enjoyable investment you'll ever make. Even now, there is nothing better in all sports than buying a pack of cards, ripping of the wrapper and seeing who you got.

Brandi Chastain
Brandi Chastain brought jog bras to every guy's attention.
8. Jog bras
Title IX gets all the pub but these may have been even more crucial to the development of women's sports. Not to mention providing a great photo op during the 1999 World Cup.

9. Cup holders
Is there anything worse than standing in line for an entire quarter, missing a 78-yard touchdown pass, paying $7 for a beer, returning to your seat and then accidentally spilling it when you stand up suddenly to scream about a missed pass interference call?

10. Football chain markers
Imagine the delays for first-down measurements without them.

As for the 10 worst sports inventions? That's easy. Artificial turf. Luxury suites. Fantasy leagues. 24-hour sports radio. Mini-camps. Gambling. Aluminum bats. Titanium clubs. Bullpen carts. And of course, the worst sports invention of all -- the designated hitter.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.