Baseball has been America’s favorite national pastime, dating back to the late 1800s and has come a long way since catching balls with their bare hands.
Known as the “dead ball” era, catching these hard, heavy balls was a painful and often dangerous experience for ball players.
Since then, the sport has steadily made changes and advancements to its rules and equipment, with one notable change being the evolution of the baseball glove.
From its humble beginnings as a mitt made with simple leather, baseball gloves are an essential piece of equipment for baseball players to catch balls and make plays while protecting their hands.
The history of baseball gloves began when Doug Allison, a catcher for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was the first baseball player believed to have used a mitt in 1870.
The first confirmed use of a baseball glove was in 1875 when Charlie Waitt, a first baseman for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, donned a light brown-colored leather glove.
Words spread, and players in other positions started using gloves.
Although steeped in tradition, make no mistake that gloves found today use advanced technology and materials tailored to the specific needs of all players.
Materials and Innovations
After Charlie’s first recorded use of a baseball glove and the use of gloves quickly spread among baseball players, gloves continued to evolve over the next few decades.
During this time, well-known sporting goods manufacturers like Spalding, Wilson, and Rawlings emerged as leaders in producing baseball gloves.
In the 1930s, gloves began to take on specialized shapes and sizes for specific players on the field. For example, catcher’s mitts branched off in an entirely new direction, featuring larger sizes, thicker paddings, and a new way of measuring than regular fielding gloves.
The 1950s saw milestones in material and design where more flexible leather made lighter gloves for improved dexterity and quicker ball transfer times. With the invention of plastic during this era, synthetic materials became more common, providing even lighter gloves and increased durability than traditional leather.
The most notable design improvement was the bucket style in the catcher’s mitts to provide deeper pockets for catchers to help them reduce balls popping out of their mitts.
Other fielders used gloves with improved glove traps, and various webbing designs increased their ball-receiving capabilities, grip, and control.
Lastly, the popularity of hook and loop straps (more commonly referred to as Velcro) saw them used as a method to adjust and securely fit a glove. Today, hook and loop straps are no longer used in professional games but are common among youth players.
Baseball has been around for over 175 years, and during that time, players have come up with ways to protect their hands from the impacts of the ball, and gloves have become an essential part of the sport.
Companies like Wilson, Rawlings, and Mizuno have a wealth of experience manufacturing gloves and are at the forefront of this industry, producing a wide range of sizes, styles, and designs.
Whether your child is just beginning their baseball or softball career or is a lights-out travel player, the right glove can make all the difference in your child’s confidence in playing a baseball or softball game.