John Grindrod: baseball gloves, memories of half a century of Lima
Baseball historian John Thorn has done extensive research on the baseball glove and identifies the first professional player to wear a glove in an era when the game was played with his bare hands. He was St. Louis Brown Stocking Charlie Waitt, who in 1875 played on first base with a flesh-colored glove that was about the size of a handball glove. As for the color, Thorn said it was because Waitt was hoping no one would notice.
So, using that as a historical starting point, maybe the memories of their first baseball gloves that many will share today won’t seem so old.
As for the youngest of my guys, Brad Clark, 57, he remembers a model made by Rawlings with Cesar Cedeno’s autograph etched into the leather. Cedeno was best known as Astro 1970 during the team’s rainbow-colored jersey years. The glove was a fastback model, a longer glove that did not have a strap on the back of the glove, which caused Brad a problem.
âWithout a strap, it meant I couldn’t hang my glove on the handlebars of my bike.â
As for Dave Busick, 64, a Tiger fan from a young age, his first glove was MacGregor model Denny McLain. In the year 1968 Tiger World Series winner McLain of Detroit, almost no doubt given the way the game is played today, became baseball’s last 30-game winner.
For Dan Moening, 65, his first glove was a Zoilo Versalles Rawlings. Versalles was a Cuban-born shortstop whose best days were as a Minnesota Twin.
For Tom Cullen, 69, another infielder from the early 1960s who grew into a player good enough to play collegially, he fondly remembers his first glove with the embossed signature of a player he has learned to admire, Nellie Fox.
Recalls Tom, now a nationally renowned glass artist: âI remember the glove was undersized compared to others that my friends had, but, as an intermediate fielder it was important a once I caught the ball I took it out and on first quickly. “
I couldn’t help but think of the recent passing of great Joe Morgan of the Reds, who played second baseman so well with one of the tiniest gloves I’ve ever seen when I saw him on display during one of my trips to the Sports Hall of Fame. in Cooperstown.
Cullen’s childhood friend Peter Linneman, 70-year-old Lima, now Philadelphian, remembers his first glove being a helping hand from his dad, a 1940s model with split fingers, which means the glove fingers were not laced.
I have a similar split-finger glove, saved from a yard sale quarter-box, with Hal Newhouser’s name visible on the outside finger. Newhouser, a left-hander, had a wonderful three-year run in the mid-1940s as the Tiger, winning 29, 25, and 26 games from 1944-46.
For Jim Penn, 69, he remembers his first glove being a Rawlings, a glove he loved and used so much, he learned on his own to remodel and repair it many times.
To local lawyer Brad Kelley, 69, he says: âWhen I started playing organized ball, my dad told me to empty the equipment bag, and what fell last was my glove. . What last hit the ground with a breastplate, mask and shin guards was a catcher’s glove. And this is where I first put the tools of ignorance!
Bill Gephart, 70, also donned these same tools and remembers his first glove with a mixture of tenderness and reverence, as those who fell in love with baseball early on tend to do.
âI remember that catcher’s glove well, a Gus Triandos model (a 13-year-old MLB veteran in the 50s and 60s). It was almost like catching with a pillow and it was the best glove I have ever had.
For John Whittaker, 72, who gets my vote for the best brother-in-law of all time, he remembers growing up in Tiffin sliding on a six-finger Rawlings, a musical role model of Stan “The Man.”
Early catcher Bob Riepenhoff, 73, tired of these tools of ignorance by his last days of elementary school and remembers another glove with much more detail and fondness, an outfielder’s mitten wearing an embossed autograph of longtime fielder Tiger Dick McAuliffe.
For Bob Seggerson, 72, he remembers a model Mickey Mantle.
Segg recalls, “I got it from Repp from Mr. Mort, and the one thing I remember the most is I liked the smell of the leather in that glove.” To this day, when I smell leather, I think of that glove and the exuberance I felt while playing baseball.
For former Lima Senior Spartan John Bean, 73, his first glove was a brand some may not remember.
âIt was a Sonnett, autographed by Ralph Kiner,â Bean recalls. âLater I switched to more familiar models like Spaulding and then to the MacGregor Ken Harrelson model that I still have today and use the game with my grandchildren.â
Thinking about those names made me smile. Neither Kiner, who led the National League on the circuits for seven consecutive years in the late 1940s and early 1950s, nor Harrelson was particularly well known for his defense. In Kiner’s case, it was his power that got the approval. As for Harrelson, just a career .239 hitter, it was his flamboyant lifestyle that may have played a part in gaining the approval.
And, finally Harry Johnson, at 77, my older brother, his first glove was a first baseman’s mitt with the embossed autograph of Ferris Fain, whose prime years first played with the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1940s.
Said the man affectionately known as Grogan in town: “And I could use this mitten better than Fain ever could!”
Boys and baseball, no matter how old the boy is, they will almost always remember those first precious possessions, the ones they valued more than the legendary Crown Jewels.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, freelance writer and editor, and author of two books. Contact him at [email protected]