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A Piece of the Past - March 2006

Inventing a New Shoe

This “PF Flyer” made in 1948 is on display in the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum. The PF stood for “perfect foundation.”

The entire display of a variety of athletic/baseball shoes can be seen at the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum.

Keds, sneakers, PF Flyers and plastic-style cleats hold a significant role in the development of equipment for Little League.

During Little League’s early years, players wanted to wear metal spikes like the big leaguers did. But, they were dangerous.

So, in 1947, Little League founder Carl E. Stotz requested the first Little League national sponsor, U.S. Rubber, develop a rubber-cleated athletic shoe. The shoes were marketed under the Keds trademark in 1948, and became the first of many products specifically designed with Little Leaguers in mind.

Rubber-soled shoes first were developed and manufactured in the United States in the late 1800s, according to the company history of Keds.

In 1892, nine small rubber companies consolidated to form the U.S. Rubber Co. Among them was the Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Co. in Connecticut. Goodyear was the first licensee of a new manufacturing process called vulcanization, discovered and patented by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanization uses heat to meld rubber to cloth or other rubber components for a sturdier, more permanent bond. From the beginning, rubber-soled shoes with canvass uppers filled a definite consumer need and were highly popular, according to the company history.

In 1892, Keds replaced plimsolls, a crude rubber-soled shoe that supposedly fit either foot. Keds continued to gain in popularity, and by 1917 the shoes were massed produced. The shoes were known as “sneakers” because the wearer could sneak up on someone, according to Fact Monster/Information Please.

Although the company initially wanted to call the shoes “peds,” it was unable to do so because that name was in use by another company, Copacabana Runners reports in its article, “History of the Athletic Shoe.” It is believed the “K” stands for “kids” and the term is rhyming slang for “ped(s),” the Latin term for foot.

The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum along Route 15 in South Williamsport has a collection in its Play It Safe Room of footwear used by Little Leaguers. There are no metal spikes permitted for divisions up to the Little League (Majors) level. The display promotes that “the plastic-style cleats are proven to be an acceptable substitute.”

In addition to various styles of Keds and cleated Keds, the display has an early pair of PF Flyers – named for Perfect Foundation. PF Flyers were advertised as allowing the wearer to run the fastest and jump his highest. The sneakers were named so they would appear to have been crafted with the latest scientific ergonomic principles in mind – before anyone had heard of “ergonomic,” Stephen M. Pribut and Douglas M. Richie wrote in “2002: A Sneaker Odyssey.”

Also included in the Play It Safe Room are displays about the development of batting helmets and catcher’s gear, as well as information about good nutrition and making the right decisions about drugs and alcohol.

The museum, 525 Route 15 Highway, South Williamsport, is open from Labor Day through Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment only during its winter hours. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The facility is accessible to the disabled.

Rates are $5 for adults, $3 for those 62 and older, and $1.50 for children between the ages of 5 and 13. There is no fee for children 4 or younger. For more information, call the museum at 570-326-3607, or click here for more information.