Flare. Flash. Fancy.
These are the words that might be used to describe the coolest baseball glove in your dugout.
But, these useful equipment pieces are much more than colors and designs. Do you know the history of baseball gloves? JustBallGloves.com chronicles how gloves were invented, crafted, and stitched into history.
What did old ballplayers use back in the day? Well, nothing. Players would use their bare hands up until the late 1800’s.
Finally, Charles Waite of the St. Louis Brown Stockings decided he’d had enough. Waite opted to wear something over his hand for protection against the baseball. Enter: the baseball glove.
Does the name Spalding sound familiar? Spalding took what Charles Waite did and made it cool. Well, cool for the late 1800’s. Spalding would go on and take his business to new heights selling an evolved version of Waite’s baseball glove to professional and amateur athletes all over.
By the 1900’s, baseball gloves were the norm.
The next big innovation took place during the 1920’s when another St. Louis player named Bill Doak came up with a design to replace the webbing in gloves with a system of straps which would soon become what’s known as a pocket. For the first time in baseball history, players didn’t have to catch the ball with their palms. This new design created a larger, deeper pocket that would relieve the impact from the player's palms and fingers while also extending the players range with Doak’s design.
- 1875 - Charlies Waite became first confirmed pro player to use a glove.
- 1920 - Bill Doak creates the glove web and sells it to Rawlings.
- 1934 - Nokona starts making gloves.
- 1957 - Wilson creates the A2000 glove.
- 1994 - Mizuno establishes their United States headquarters.
Doak went on to patent his design and sell it to Rawlings. (Ever heard of them?) Rawlings took this design and ran with it, surpassing Spalding as the go-to glove provider during that era. Fast-forward and Rawlings is now the glove provider of nearly 50% of professional ballplayers today.
What happened next? Competition. Enter Wilson baseball gloves. Wilson launched their first catcher’s mitt in 1922. It was called the Ray Schalk catcher’s mitt and would go on to set the standard for design, comfort, and padding.
Then, in 1957, Thomas E. Wilson created a very popular model of baseball glove called the A2000. The A2000 had a deeper pocket and closed shut like a pair of jaws. Now, infielder and outfielders were snatching grounders and fly balls with ease. This might have played a factor in why it’s unlikely anyone will hit .400 again.
After a decade of tweaking and testing, Wilson got his glove to be 5-10 ounces lighter than any of his rivals. Wilson gloves had breathability, durability, and foam like padding. All things that the competition was missing out on. Today, Wilson has 4 series of baseball gloves. The A2K, the A2000, the A2000 SuperSkin and the A1K.
While Rawlings and Wilson remain two top glove brands, others helped to evolve the glove too. Mizuno Corporation was founded in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno. Surprisingly, Mizuno did not start selling athletic equipment in the U.S. until 1980.
Mizuno USA began sending over leather for their gloves to their headquarters in Norcross, GA in 1994. Mizuno brought craftsmanship and new technology to athletes all across the world. They offer a combined 10 different styles of baseball and softball gloves.
One of Mizuno’s favorite youth options is the Mizuno Prime Series, GPL1150. They say for the price you get one of the best gloves. The dual V-Flex helps initiate the closure of the glove. Don’t forget, Mizuno has a patent on their “Power Close” technology that helps you close the glove and catch the ball like no other.
Another big player in the ball glove game came into play during the 1930’s in Nocona, TX. Nokona is known for their elite handmade glove construction.
The Storey family founded Nokona and has kept the company family-oriented ever since. The Nokona business plan was simple, yet tedious. The company would buy raw materials in the United States and employ highly skilled leather crafters from the small town of Nocona, Texas. These elite gloves are assembled by hand from more than 20 individual pieces of leather.
Nokona Athletic Goods provided gloves for slow pitch softball players all the way to professional baseball players. Nokona currently has over 30 professional ball players endorsing their gloves.
What's your favorite glove? Did you know the history of mitts before this article? Let us know in the comments.
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