Short History of the Baseball Glove

History of the Baseball Glove

By Christina Verrengia

It has long been said that baseball is America’s past time. The game has evolved from its inception to be known world wide. From the 1870’s until now the game has changed dramatically. The baseball glove is one piece of equipment that helped to change it.

The first baseball gloves were used in the 1870’s, before that time players were expected to play the game with no protection to shield them from the impact of the ball. The gloves of the time were made very simply and were strictly made to pad and protect the player’s hands. The first gloves believe it or not were made to help the players knock the ball to the ground and not necessarily catch it. Gloves were not nearly as padded as the ones used today, but a little protection was better than none at all.

The baseball gloves of the 1870’s lose points for style as well. In those days, the glove was strictly pieces of leather sewn together to fit the players hand, nothing like today. In today’s game gloves are manufactured by many different brands, such as Rawlings, Wilson, Louisville, Nike and Mizuno to name just a few. Each manufacturer has different styles that are made with different leathers. Gloves today come in different colors, such as: brown, black, tan, red, even pink for girls. Nokona makes very popular softball gloves that men and women a like use. Rawlings and Wilson make very special lines of gloves designed for the high level players from high school to the professional levels. The Rawlings Pro Preferred Series as well as the Rawlings Heart of the Rawlings & Hide series are probably the two most sought-after models in Major League baseball today. Wilson also has many MLB players wearing their gloves as well,although Mizuno Louisville, Nike and others have their presence in the game as well. Players can even have their names custom embroidered on their gloves.

Writing about style points seems strange, being that in the early days of baseball and the use of gloves, the players who chose to use them were teased and made to seem soft by the players who chose not to wear them. Over time however, the use of gloves became more widely accepted and eventually became a standard piece of equipment.

In 1911, Spalding wrote of his experiences in early baseball and describes his first introduction to the baseball glove:

"The first glove I ever saw on the hand of a ball player in a game was worn by Charles C. Waite, in Boston, in 1875. He had come from New Haven and was playing at first base. The glove worn by him was of flesh color, with a large, round opening in the back. Now, I had for a good while felt the need of some sort of hand protection for myself. In those days’ clubs did not carry an extra carload of pitchers, as now. For several years I had pitched in every game played by the Boston team, and had developed severe bruises on the inside of my left hand. When it is recalled that every ball pitched had to be returned,

Tom Forster
Shortstop, Milwaukee
from a contemporary
baseball card, 1887

And that every swift one coming my way, from infielders, outfielders or hot from the bat, must be caught or stopped, some idea may be gained of the punishment received.

Therefore, I asked Waite about his glove. He confessed that he was a bit ashamed to wear it but had it on to save his hand. He also admitted that he had chosen a color as inconspicuous as possible, because he didn't care to attract attention. He added that the opening on the back was for purpose of ventilation.

Meanwhile my own hand continued to take its medicine with utmost regularity, occasionally being bored with a warm twister that hurt excruciatingly. Still, it was not until 1877 that I overcame my scruples against joining the 'kid-glove aristocracy' by donning a glove. When I did at last decide to do so, I did not select a flesh-colored glove, but got a black one, and cut out as much of the back as possible to let the air in.

Happily, in my case, the presence of a glove did not call out the ridicule that had greeted Waite. I had been playing so long and had become so well known that the innovation seemed rather to evoke sympathy than hilarity. I found that the glove, thin as it was, helped considerably, and inserted one pad after another until a good deal of relief was afforded. If anyone wore a padded glove before this date, I do not know it. The 'pillow mitt' was a later innovation."

One type of glove that can not be made or bought is the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. The Rawlings Gold Glove Award is an award that was first announced by The Rawlings Company on October 2, 1957. A panel of sports writers was put together with the objective of choosing the leagues best defensive players in both the National and American leagues. In 1958 an award was given to one player, from each position, in each league voted on by the players. The voting system changed slightly in 1965, when it was decided that managers and coaches would pick the gold glove teams. The one catch to the voting system is that the managers and coaches can not vote for players from their own teams. Each winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove award receives a gold glove or mitt made of gold finished leather that is mounted on a hardwood stand with an engraved plate bearing the players name, position, team he plays for, and the year he received the award.

Receiving the award is an honor and something that every player hopes for in his career. The award shows just how important defense is to the game and also shows how important the glove has become as well. Over the years the baseball glove has gone through many transformations, so much so that they can be seen in museums. The changes that occurred only made the glove more useful and I can only imagine what changes will be made to it in the future.

Written By: Christina Verrengia

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