Experiments

Baseball Player’s Eye Black Cuts Out Glare

posted: 04/11/12
by: Tony Choummanivong
baseball-eye-black-cuts-out-glare0-1
Read more Read less
As seen in "MythBusters: Viewer Special II"
Thinkstock

Finding: PLAUSIBLE

Explanation:In 1942, Washington Redskins' fullback Andy Farkas hit the football field with ash from a burnt cork smeared below his eyes. Today, these iconically sooty swipes have evolved into a variety of synthetic substances worn by football and baseball players alike.

But does eye black really absorb light and prevent glare as some players suggest? The MythBusters put this smear campaign to the test to uncover eye black's visual advantage, using a light meter to measure its effectiveness.

Turns out, indirect light does more than make players blink. It creates "veiling glare," which reduces their ability to see clearly. Wearing eye black won't keep this optical phenomenon from happening, but it can tone it down. The stripes improve the eye's ability to differentiate between light and dark, and that increased contrast means you can see in greater detail. The better you can see the minutia around you, the better you can track an object as its speed increases - which is obviously important to outfielders following a pop fly's sunward trajectory.

Does donning eye black improve athletic performance? While the MythBusters can't blindly guarantee its effects are a game-winner, they can see one thing clearly: Eye black can give a baseballer's eyesight a definite boost.

More on
MythBusters