The July 4 Science Notebook item about catchers and their hand injuries took me back 18 years, to when my 12-year-old was in Little League. He was bigger than most of the kids on the team, and we knew he was the most powerful pitcher, but we learned just how powerful during the first game of the season.

At about the fifth inning, the catcher asked his dad, the coach, to take him out because his hand hurt -- and we discovered that his hand was red and swollen. The coach looked for padding the next few days, but nothing worked, not even high-tech athletic pads.

Then the coach talked to a baseball old-timer who told him that in his day they used a piece of steak as a pad.

For the rest of the season, the coach or his wife stopped at a supermarket on the way to each game at which my son was scheduled to pitch. They would buy a half-inch-thick piece of inexpensive steak, and the catcher would stuff it between his batting glove and catcher's mitt. At the end of the game, the tenderized steak would go in the nearest trash can.

We didn't hear any more complaints about the pain, but the catcher's mitt had to be retired at the end of the season.