Thanks to some innovative baseball players and three fine glove designers Rawlings Sporting Goods fairly dominated the baseball glove landscape from 1922 forward. “Finest in the Field” and it stuck! At one point, in the 1950s, Rawlings was claiming that roughly 80% of all gloves worn on major leaguers’ hands. I don’t know if the company pundits were including the Spaldings which Rawlings was under contract to make according to their own designs, or not.
Still, that’s a stranglehold on the big-league market. Like Ned Pepper shouted to Roster Cogburn in True Grit, “FILL YOU HANDS…” and Rawlings was doing just that. Plenty of players who were MacGregor or Wilson or non-endorsees would sneak over to the Rawlings station wagons and pick out gloves. I’m not quite sure whether they had to pay for them or Rawlings would be generous enough to say, “here, take one or two.”
It all began in 1921 or so when Bill Doak, a saliva inclined hurler for St. Louis dropped by the Rawlings plant to explain an idea he had for a new glove. He did and the glove world changed. His glove, unlike most of the flat, pancake styles: CREATED A POCKET!” Soon players with the Doak were making a lot of one-handed catches, heretofore considered a “lucky” catch or not merely “stopping the ball” but getting a grip on it, flies and grounders. Ty Cobb ordered a dozen of them for his team.
Rawlings was now, definitely, in the glove “bidness.” So how did it work? Doak put a flexible laced web in his glove instead of the stiff flat piece web that kept the glove flat and difficult to close. Also added was that Doak dropped the thumb so that the glove began to curl and concave. Voila, a pocket. Harry Latina, glove designer for Rawlings, took the idea further, padded up around the pocket and came up with the long time used, “Deep Well Pocket,” for the Rawlings gloves.
From 1922 Rawlings began commanding the glove scene and various imitations began to dot the glove landscape. An interesting side note to this was the happenstance that Doak later opened his eventually unsuccessful glove company in the 1930s. Up until the late 1940s the Doak was around in various sizes and webs and was the first “important” glove for a lot of major league players.
In the late 1930s another lucky break for Rawlings or rather picking the brains and thoughts of the men playing the game, Latina and his St. Louis outfit developed the “Trapper” or “Claw” first baseman mitt, based on the fish nets that first basemen like Hank Greenberg had developed. You see, a first baseman normally doesn’t have to make a throw after catch the ball but better dang sure make sure it sticks in the mitt. Latina made sure it was sturdy enough, backing it with a “finger” type webbing.
That style basemitt lasted for three or more decades after being introduced.
The ball, when you caught it was catching it in a springy web. I remember as a youth we had a game called “burn out”. That is, we would stand close enough to one enough without killing each other and throw pitches as hard as we could make until the other player, his hand stinging or finger bent, would quit. I had a trapper and won many a “burn out.”
The “Claw” was great too in scooping balls out of the dirt. Made you” look good on the bag,” as they would say.
The next big Rawlings design and one that still captures the imagination of glove collectors is the “rolled lace web glove, primarily the Red Rolfe model, that Rawlings came out with during World War II. It was novel in that it worked in much the same manner as the trapeze base mitt in that the ball hitting the web, relaxed it so that it just was “snagged” and “snugged” in there. Another little tweak and one that would get the glove in trouble was that it could be extended, almost an inch or so above the fingers. That inch could mean the difference in catching or missing the ball and you would have a taller, longer glove in effect. Rawlings not only would put this on its smaller Red Rolfe RR models but would adapt the webbing to the larger outfielder/pitcher gloves like the Mort Cooper MC, but it was not offered in the retail markets.
Harry Latina would tell major league outfielders when he was passing out gloves in spring training in the late 1940s, “I can give you and extra step” (meaning reach with the extended web glove). All was fine until the Dodger Outfielder the 5’7’ Al Gionfriddo robbed Joe DiMaggio of a home run with a leaping catch using one of these rolled-laced gloves, one that would have resulted in several runs and was supposedly the only time that anyone had seen Joe DiMaggio so frustrated that he kicked a bag when he saw the catch robbing him.
In an interview I conducted with Rollie Latina, Harry’s son and equally famous Rawlings glove designer, he told me that evidently Joe D. got a protesting word to the higher ups in the baseball Commissioner’s office and the glove died an official death in 1951. The spiral web glove was kaput in professional baseball but one, if you can find it, highly sought by collectors like Art Katsapis and David Seideman. A few of these have turned up on the market worn by pros, that I’ve been made aware of by Tommy Henrich and Eddie Yost. Lots of vintage pictures though of star players like Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, Red Schoendienst, Carl Furillo, on and on were seen using this funky webbed glove.
This Rawlings glove holds a special magic for many collectors its allure not fully understandable, yet it’s evocative and one no matter in what combination such as on the Mickey Mantle XPG6-H will no doubt, remain popular.
The HH Harvey Haddix model introduced in 1954 is another popular collectible
glove if for no other fact than it was a glove used by Willie Mays to make his 1954 World Series catch and another one used by Mantle during the mid-1950s.
By 1957, when Rawlings was previewing its new Trapeze models (promoted as the “first new glove in 40 years!”) to Major Leaguers at spring training but not yet on the retail market with it, its fiercest rival Wilson was making headway on a glove that would change glove design for the next 50 plus years. It was a hinged-glove innovation where the glove was designed to break at the 5 O’clock point on the face of the glove, making it easier to close over on the ball. This was aided by dropping the thumb height and this glove quickly caught on.
It seemed to catch Rawlings by surprise though a Rawlings executive I interviewed, Elmer Blasco many years ago, who told me that Rawlings had a similar type pattern in the works, before the Wilson A2000 introduction.
It may well have but there are no clear evidentiary sources that point to this in 1958 as Rawlings was still touting a “cupped” or rounded pocket in its catalogs and taking a “last swing” at its dying 3-Finger Playmaker models. In 1959, Rawlings came out with three hinged model gloves, its RSP, DS and EM and somewhere in there the rare LB12 Lew Burdette (non-catalogued) models also, in 1960 its Mickey Mantle MMP which now boasted “Heart of the Hide” leather and was fitted with the hinge, a feature which Rawlings would be calling its “Lazy S.” One curious statement in the 1959 Rawlings catalog states Mantle’s MMP was “Autographed and used by the modern Yankee great.” This was a concept or printed statement that many game-used glove authorities seemed unaware of.
At any rate, Rawlings seemed to be caught, already found itself in a design but more of a marketing bind, likely from staying with its ‘Playmaker” concept too long before coming out with its novel Trapeze design and, in 1958, having the Wilson A2000 begin eating into its market both on the pro and retail levels. It was a quandary that Rollie Latina shortly answered with the excellent XPG series. Rawlings, to its credit, had developed a hinge pad for its Playmaker before its demise. Both Rawlings and Wilson had brought out “mid-line” patterns where there was a gap in the palm at the hinge area. So, the idea was being explored.
In 1958 Rawlings had just announced its now supple-sounding titled and promoted: “Heart of the Hide”® leather, a leather it had been using by now but now provided with an alluring title, famously so, a mantra leather that would continue for the next half century.
But Wilson seemed to have stolen a march on Rawlings maybe not so much in design surprise but certainly the company scored a marketing coup if nothing else. Clearly though baseball players pro and amateur alike were taking to the cross-hinge style glove.
The XPG3 Rawlings, its first XPG model introduced to the public featured the following:
* “U” shaped laced heel
* Double Lazy “S” Pocket Lace
* Deep well pocket
* Slim wrist and snugger adjustment
* Laced down thumb and little finger (tie downs)
* Along with Rawlings V-Anchored web
Strikingly the XPG3 resembled the 1960 Wilson A2000 glove except that Wilson was employing a sewn pinkie finger and thumb closure at its heel whereas Rawlings had created a laced “U” heel. Wilson came back the next year, 1961, copying the full laced “U” heel.
Wilson’s 1960 Web was a solid web like the XPG3. Rawlings had the crotch extension over its thumb. Otherwise the gloves looked similar. Art Katsapis, an avid modern glove collector, maintained that the Rawlings leather at that time and since was sturdier and the leather thicker (Heart of the Hide) than its Wilson counterpart.
For the next half-century Rawlings would make basically some design changes, some tweaks here and there, the great “BasketWeb”® would take command and the Trapeze made a startling comeback.
The XPG (and later the XGF featuring a Holster ® Single-finger opening in a closed back design) gloves were practical and workable gloves. These “X” models would boast a laced U-heel and in the next few years, Rawlings would introduce such innovations as a “Flex-O- Matic palm (for a short tenure) and “Edge-U-Cated” heels.
The “Heart of the Hide” image caught on and was accepted as a noteworthy brand for gloves.
The Flex-O-Matic palm was a design it appears where Rawlings wanted to hold onto the idea of different type of break in the action of the glove, more toward the middle with the glove forming less of a hinge or fold over. The idea was eventually discarded from the line. Collectors Jim Daniel and Bruce Rodgers, a buyer and seller, of premium gloves expressed a distaste for the pattern.
The surprise in the development of Rawlings gloves for the next few decades would be the discontinuation of its Trapeze line only to be revived by one of the great fielders of the 1980s, shortstop Ozzie Smith, now a Hall of Fame member. Smith when he hit the big leagues brought with him a glove from his youth, a Rawlings TG12 Stan Musial. Smith had Rawlings make his gloves and the design suddenly became a popular style in the big leagues with stars like Ken Griffey showing off this truly workable Rawlings model.
Another popular feature that Latina came up was the “BasketWeb”® a cross-weave webbing that looks like the Easter basket weave. One of the keys of the web is for the ball to relax in the trap and enfold the baseball when it hits and the BasketWeb® did this perfectly.
Rollie Latina would retire in the 1990s and Bob Clevenhagen would take over his reins after being tutored by the grand master. Bob is retired now and Rawlings seems to be doing things the corporate way by committees with all major production shifting to the Philippines.
Coming late, 2017.
Was reviewing the control panels on the backend of the site and pulled up some stats. Interesting that modern gloves and catalogs were downloaded the most, more so than anything vintage. From what I have seen lately on modern glove prices on the Forum, that side of the hobby seems to be thriving. The vintage side seems flatter. Maybe we need to shake it up a bit.
I have been in contact with many collectors lately who are jonesin’ to get something new and not a lot of good vintage stuff has been for sale as of late, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good cuz people are still collecting and holding their good stuff (keeping the supply of the good stuff low and prices higher) but when nothing good comes out to play, the hobby gets stagnant and people lose interest. Reports from the recent National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City confirmed that there was not a lot of vintage stuff for sale. So, I have solicited a few of these guys who will put some gloves in play to see if we can spark some activity.
New sales list coming soon via e-mail blast.
In the meantime, many of you have updated your photos, which is great, as that stimulates a lot of trade opportunities and correspondence between collectors. We are over 16,000 pics in the Glove Gallery now. 17,000 is the next milestone so please keep them coming. Stay tuned.
Will the legacy and collecting favor of the Brooklyn Dodgers last or become a baseball memory row of apartment buildings like its old home: Ebbets Field? Focusing directly, we’re talking about the Brooklyn Dodger team(s) from 1947 to 1956 which left an indelible impression on not only baseball but on the nation in that decade.
The impact of this impressive baseball assembly came during an early start to the cold war — post 1946. It was a Dodger team classified as one of the greatest and most exciting teams of baseball covering a10-year span that would include six World Series appearances. Most of the earlier Brooklyn Dodgers past remains obscure to most fans and collectors. After 1957, there was no more Brooklyn Dodgers. The team escaped its borough to the broader western expansion of Los Angeles.
Today Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia still remains sought after but as its loyal fans grow older or pass away will that interest fade away, like those potential buyers of deceased icons like Joe DiMaggio (where have you gone?) Ted Williams or even Stan “The Man” Musial?
There are those who believe the immediate postwar Dodgers of that era will always have a staple buying and collecting public for those magical Brooklyn nines.
Strangely, if you asked casual baseball fans if they knew much about the Brooklyn Dodgers before 1940, they would have scratched their head. Frankly, not many baseball aficionados paid much attention to the Dodgers before 1947? The team was in only two World Series and lost both of them (1916 and 1920).
Names like Zack Wheat, manager Wilbert Robinson or the colorful “Dazzy” Vance might spring up from a lack luster history of pre-1940 Dodgers teams. From the beginning of their existence, the Dodgers hum- drummed their way through decades of forgettable seasons.
However, in the late 1930s, there was light at the end of the Brooklyn tunnel.
The man who began rubbing two sticks together to fire up the franchise was none other than Larry MacPhail, a promoter extraordinaire, who once was said to have planned to capture the Kaiser in World War I and who, as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1938, brought night baseball into the big leagues.
To say MacPhail was brilliant but erratic would be putting it mildly. Drinking bouts would bring about problems and his downfall in many cases with the Dodgers and later with the New York Yankees.
But shortly after he arrived in Flatbush MacPhail stirred some life into the moribund Dodgers, introducing night baseball and radio to Brooklyn and — lo and behold — even fielding some decent players
MacPhail’s team even managed the National League pennant in 1941 with fine young players like Pee Wee Reese, Dolph Camili and the talented but unlucky Pete Reiser. World War II took away both MacPhail and Brooklyn’s chances for further pennants. Branch Rickey would become the new Dodger general manager. The Dodgers also became the first major league team to draw one-million fans through their turn styles. This would be a trend that would continue to get better.
It would be Rickey’s teams and personnel who would win a remarkable six National League pennants beginning in 1947 and narrowly miss two more in last game season losses.
Alas, as great as these teams were, they could only win one World Series, having to match up with the seemingly unconquerable New York Yankees who would frustrate them in 1947, 1949, 1951, ’52, ’53, and 1956, successes snapped only by Brooklyn’s triumph in 1955. Despite all of its domination of the National league from 1947 to 1956, losses in the series to the crosstown rival Yankees, Dodgers fans always seemed to be wailing, “Wait ‘till next year.”
Carl Erskine Bowman Card
The flash of brilliance and boldness that put this Brooklyn organization on the baseball map forever was Rickey’s signing of the major league’s first Negro player and a catalyst for the team: Jackie Robinson, a dynamo and personality who left an enduring influence on the game. The astute Rickey surrounded him with a superb cast: Reese, who had arrived in Brooklyn much earlier and along with Hall of Famers like Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, and star players like Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe, Carl Furillo and Carl Erskine. These Dodgers would be immortalized by Roger Kahn’s epic book on the team: “The Boys of Summer.”
Only three teams would interrupt those Dodger pennant hopes during that cold-war 1947 to 1956 span and those came in agonizing ways like the narrow final-game loss to the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies and to the 1951 New York Giants who came from behind 13 1/2 games to force a playoff in 1951 ending in the Giants’ Bobby Thomson epic homer victory.
It would be Rickey, who by developing a broad farm system of talent and trades, would create these happy fruits of achievement rivaling only that of the omnipotent rival Yankees.
It would be the threshold year of 1947 that would become not only a milestone of the first Afro-American in baseball resulting in the national controversy that would swirl around that momentous event but it was also the start of the Brooklyn Dodger dynasty that would last for the next decade.
Ironically the general managers of the two teams squaring off in the 1947 World Series would be: MacPhail who had also joined the Yankees also as a part owner and Rickey now heading the Dodgers, a position he took when MacPhail enlisted in the service (1942) in World War II.
The Dodgers futility against the mighty Yankees in World Series after World Series, but also its great successes in dominating the National League stamped the team indelibly in many fans’ minds. Importantly black baseball fans now could love a major league team to follow and cheer for but the Dodgers appeal went beyond that, perhaps even embracing fans who were struck with the agonizing close season-ending losses.
If MacPhail was an innovator and idea man, his successor with the Dodgers, Branch Rickey, was of the same mold but in a far more methodical and controlled vein that the mercurial MacPhail. And Rickey brought with him the revolutionary major league concept of a farm system where multitudes of young players would be signed and controlled through teams with working contracts with his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Besides the solid nucleus of iconic stars Rickey would pump his teams with a continuous flow young stars like Carl Erskine, Johnny Podres, “Junior” Gilliam, Charlie Neal, Johnny Roseboro or trade for players like “Preacher” Roe and Andy Pafko.
Though the 1941 Dodger-Yankee clash was the first meeting the crux of the heroic rivalry seemed to begin in 1947 when the cross-town foes began spreading national attention electronically and into historic numbers of homes with radio and emerging television (the 1947 World Series would become the first televised). In seven tough games, the Yankees clinched the first series match-up between the two teams in the start of what would become a long-lasting rivalry.
It would furnish the denizens of Brooklyn to begin their chant of “Wait ’til next year!” But the Yankee bats and arms would dominate in 1949, 1952 and 1953, until, finally, “next year” CAME with Brooklyn prevailing over the Yankees in seven games to win their only World Series in Brooklyn. A grudge re-match would occur in 1956 with the Dodgers struggling through seven games though suffering the ironic fate of losing to Don Larsen when he pitched a perfect game, the only one in World Series history. By 1958 it was all over for not only the magic of the close competition but for the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Its owner, Walter O’Malley, looking west for more attractive financial environs took the team to Los Angeles.
But the Brooklyn Dodgers of that time seemed to leave an indelible footprint on the American psyche. Or so, it has seemed. Some of the Dodger stars like Hodges, Snider went to the West Coast and Gilliam seemed to last the longest but three of the later arrival pitchers: “Sandy” Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres, the hero of the 1955 Dodgers win, would extract a sweet revenge in the 1963 series against the Yankees by sweeping New York in four tilts.
An overriding question remains, which along with the gradual fading of those super stars of the 1940s and ‘50s like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Musial in the memories of collectors will the Dodger magic still continue to imprint with younger collectors? This might be true no. What has helped recently to create a new surge of interest has been a movie release on Jackie Robinson.
Frank Graham Jr. who was Dodger publicist during this and author of “Farewell to Heroes,” offers his thoughts on the Brooklyn Dodger permanence.
“I think the mystique of the Dodgers will survive, perhaps more than any other in the game. In fact, the period it covers is a long one–going back to the daffiness days in the thirties, the continued “disasters” as the team’s fortunes changed (the Mickey Owen flub, the Bobby Thomson bomb) in the forties and early fifties, and then the “boys of summer” in the mid-fifties.
And remember, the latter was celebrated in a book of consequence. That’s almost 25 years! There were elements like the dramatic integration and the tightly knit community. I don’t think any other “dynasty” compares. The new Jackie Robinson documentary that Ken Burns will produce next April is a part of the continuing celebration.
Though the concept of team collecting has been around in the baseball hobby for years in cards and autographs, this fad spread to the baseball collecting community as well.
Master glove collectors like John Graham and Roy Anderson in Dallas, along with Bob Gray in Virginia began their assemblies of Dodger player glove collections concentrating on the key post-war era.
One of the key and extremely rare player gloves and highly sought was a USA made Jackie Robinson glove and two of these were nabbed by Anderson as keystones of his glove collections. Another tough one was that of “Junior” Gilliam and Graham admits he spent a lot of time trying to track that one down. A devoted glove collector Graham, who was an original co-founder of baseball ballqube baseball displays, made one of his side collecting goals –besides that of acquiring Hall of Famer and antique gloves — acquiring the player model gloves of the Dodgers.
“Dad was a Yankee fan when I was growing up and after the 1955 Dodger World Series win in 1955 we had a natural rivalry going. I was totally smitten with the Dodgers the next year.
“I got into baseball card collecting and first thing in the mornings I would check the box-scores paying particular interest to Duke Snider and Don Newcombe. On the weekends my dad and I watched the game of the week and when the weather was bad I would listed to the game of the day on the radio. I was happy when the Dodgers were on TV or radio.
“In the mid-1960s I was in Santa Ana, Ca. in the USMC and quite often caught a game on TV or radio and particularly remember the great announcer of Vin Scully
“Early 80’s I really got interested in baseball cards. My son got me into it. We had a bunch of the cards and cards set. At one time I had all of the Duke Snider cards except for the Hires Root Beer card. In the late 1980s I fell in love with baseball gloves, got rid of most my cards and the rest is history.”
Besides the Dodgers Anderson tuned his collection, including gloves, to particularly Jackie Robinson and the Negro League players.
Anderson, law professor at SMU, grew up living across from a ballpark in Alexandria, La., home of the Alexandria Aces.
“I remember listening to the radio at night when I was about five years old. They kept mentioning this guy Joe DiMaggio every other sentence it seemed like.
“The Aces were playing across the field from home. I thought that was the game I was listening to. Some guy named Joe just across the city park.
“But, thank goodness, I did not grow up a Yankee fan. The Aces were real low minor league, but they had some affiliation with the Brooklyn Dodgers – Duke Snider was the Aces manager for a year. So, instead of the Cardinals game, which most cities in the area got, we got the Dodgers.
“From age 10 we played baseball in the little league park which was also across from our home from morning until dark dang near every day. I had a little transistor radio, which we kept in the dugout. Dodgers games playing in the background.
“I was Duke Snider though I bat right and never could jump. My best friend, who was of Italian descent, was Jackie Robinson – because he was the fastest of us. Honestly don’t think we even knew Jackie was a black man. Not sure we would have cared.
“1955 was a magic year for the Dodgers and I was a fanatic afterwards until the ’58 season when they moved somewhere. Never gave a damn about them after that.
“Also got hooked on collecting cards in 1955, mainly to play the game where kids flipped cards against walls. Did that game even have a name? I do remember that the 1955 Koufax was the dregs of the ’55 Topps set. Who the hell was the guy? When you got a Koufax in a pack, you put it with your flipping cards. I even remember a fight between two kids because one of them was flipping too many Koufaxes. Sure would like to have a few of those today. They’d go in a different pile.
“Gilliam (the endorsed store model glove) is indeed a tough ’55 Dodger glove to find. But I lucked into one early on when I was almost totally ignorant about collecting gloves. Toughest for me, other than the Jackies, which I also lucked into, were Newcombe and, especially, Amoros, who I think is the toughest of the ‘55s other than Jackie). I bought the only two Amoros (gloves) I ever saw. It’s a kids’ glove. Absolute piece of cheap junk – could not have sold for more than a buck.
“Biggest Dodger glove regret is passing on a beautiful, high-end, mint Jack Banta from the big Kansas glove find. I had just started collecting and I had no clue that I’d likely never see one again. A quarter of century later and I still haven’t. Never even heard about another.”
Gray was also an ardent glove hobbyist and would track down, if he could find them, the earlier Dodger gloves beginning with Pete Reiser, “Dazzy” Vance, Billy Herman, Cookie Lavagetto and Dolph Camilli.
The arrival of black players into the league created issues not only for baseball sponsors as to if and how to feature Negro players and this thorny problem spilled over into the baseball equipment world where played endorsement on gloves and bats played an important role in their sales.
Major companies like Spalding, Rawlings, Wilson and MacGregor Goldsmith had to approach the possible marketing idea to capture the star power of the emerging black stars.
Rawlings, a company long dominant in the major league player use of gloves, and a leading company name, well respected in the retail glove world, seemed to favor its home town players at this time like Marty Marion with his “Mr. Shortstop” glove and the iconic Stan Musial which propped hefty glove sales. Spalding player endorsements featured many of the New York Yankees, beginning with Babe Ruth but continuing through Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey and later Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford.
The most amazing coup in glove endorsement history though was scored by Rawlings in the signing of one of baseball’s most famous identifiable stars that exists through today, that of Mickey Mantle.
Where did that leave the Dodgers?
The major companies like Spalding and Rawlings seemed reluctant to enroll black players though Campanella would eventually sign with Wilson and have his name on its shelf-model catcher’s mitts.
Taking on the risky marketing proposition and lead of getting black player endorsements would be the MacGregor glove company in Cincinnati by signing Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson.
Some of the Dodger emerging stars like Hodges, who endorsed with Wilson Sporting Goods, and Snider who joined with Rawlings, having their names stamped on those companies’ store model gloves.
It would take two of the less-known glove maker entities to sign and feature the most of the Dodgers: the Chicago-based Dubow Company and the tiny Nocona Athletic Goods, stuck out in rural North Texas.
Nokona’s owner Bob Storey, knowing that financially he was shut out of getting big name endorsements because of the prohibitive cost, used a back door approach starting from the bottom up. He would sign players while they were still in the minor leagues and hope they might become big- league stars.
Storey linked a great connection with Brooklyn Dodger farm club manager Bobby Bragan, manager of the Fort Worth Cats, Many of the Dodger regulars and role players would siphon through the Cats in the late 1940s and early 1950s and Bragan made sure these Dodger farmhand would get a tour of the nearby Nocona glove plant where Storey would ink them to a contract.
Don Hoak Nokona Glove Box & Bag
Familiar Dodgers notables like Erskine, Billy Loes, Bob Milliken, Karl Spooner and even future Hall of Famer Dick Williams would have their facsimile autographs on Nokona gloves also those of course of Bragan, Cal Abrams and Don Hoak to name a few memorable names.
The last family member Larry Dubow in an interview years ago, remembers the Dodger players coming into his father’s plant and his getting their autographs on baseballs. “Sadly I played with all those baseballs,” he recalled.
But Dodger players abounded on the Dubow store gloves: Reese, Billy Herman, “Cookie” Lavagetto, Dolph Camilli, Mickey Owen, Ransom Jackson, “Preacher” Roe, Pete Reiser, Billy Cox, Ralph Branca, Furillo, Newcombe, even Snider and Hodges until they switched their endorsement. The most prominent of these however was the glove signature of Jackie Robinson’s, though only a few of his Dubow gloves seemed to have survived. Sadly most of these Dubow Dodger player gloves are rare. Besides Robinson it’s difficult to find those of the rest of those Dodgers too as Dubow simply didn’t have the mass marketing abilities of the major companies and many of those glove were and are sought by Dodger team glove collectors.
Carl Erskine Nokona G57 Reissue
For most baseball followers, it’s difficult to distinguish the Joe Jackson who starred for Philadelphia, Cleveland, and most notably, Chicago White Sox, AKA the Black Sox, from the mystical Joe Jackson of book and movie fame.
Two movies a year apart: “Eight Men Out” (1988) and “Field Of Dreams” (1989) produced two distinct views of the South Carolina native Jackson. One: the “real” magnificent-hitting country bumpkin Joe to the Field of Dreams ghostly character, of Shoeless Joe projected by author W. P. Kinsella and in John Sayles’ excellent film.
In reflection though, while we have one Jackson stepping out of a corn field in Dyersville, Iowa, another Joe Jackson, emerged, allegedly to sign a baseball glove contract with Nocona Athletic Goods Company, i.e.– the Nokona Glove Company–in 1941 in Nocona, Texas. This occurred at the end of the depression.
As it eventually turned out, the Nocona “filling station” operator was available for
Nocona owner and operator, R. E. “Bob” Storey to capture the Jackson name and mystique to sell some Nokona ball gloves, though auspiciously with the Jackson endorsed names on them. Sort of a creative way to make a buck.
Not that this idea of famous name borrowing hadn’t gone on before in baseball with the Curtis Candy company coming up with a “Baby” Ruth candy bar, disclaiming that it had anything to do with the famous Yankee slugger. Besides the name on the candy bar seemed be ok as far as Ruth was concerned.
During the 1930s, the Hutch Sporting Goods Company signed Vince, the first of the DiMaggio brothers to reach the big leagues to a baseball glove contract. Vince would bear the earliest of the famous baseball name, but was not the player that his younger brother, the famous Joe. Joe, “the Yankee Clipper” would become, one of baseball’s most heralded heroes of the 1930s and ‘40s.
When Viince left the major league scene, Hutch simply omitted his first name from its DiMaggio gloves issue a revised one bearing only the last name “DiMaggio” on its gloves and “voila” Hutch had a best seller in the market place.
Today to attempt that sort of project would involve a legal dispute with the famous CMG Management Company which licenses and protects the legal use rights of famous baseball players like Jackson’s to band leader, Glenn Miller.
By 1942 our country had erupted into a full-scale war with Germany and Japan, lasting most of four years, and Nocona earned a government contract to produce ball gloves for servicemen during that period. The Jackson gloves were put on the back-burner until, surprisingly, in the early 1950s about the time Jackson died at his home in Greenville S.C. Nocona again pulled its Jackson signature die-castings out of the bin to burn the “Jackson” signature into some odd-looking base mitts called the “Latch” and the “Squirt.” This lasted through about a two or three year trial period.
For glove collectors the Jackson Nokona ball gloves and mitts have become a highly sought item, especially the shorter run of gloves.
That raises the question of: did the immortal Jackson have a baseball glove endorsement contract during his playing period? Apparently so, and according to the advertisements of the Draper Maynard Sporting Goods Company, Jackson used the company’s D&M made glove. So, there might be a Joe Jackson D&M game-used glove somewhere, but, If D&M made a retail or store-model gloves glove with his name on it, none have shown in the hands of collectors.
In the early 1990’s my company, “The Glove Collector,” produced with Nocona company’s glove expertise and glove-making skills to sell some replicas of the G42 Nokona Jackson glove. Roughly about 50 or so of these were made and marketed. Some of these were sold to a “Ghost Team” organized by Dyersville locals who needed period gloves to perform for tourists and visitors arriving to the film-site ball-park which was left standing after being specially created for the “Dreams” movie and which was carved out of former corn fields.
Joe Jackson’s gamer glove was accoladed: “a place where triples go to die” a tribute to Jackson’s defensive prowess. The Draper Maynard store sale gloves apparently never came into being. Nocona Ball Glove Company brought the Jackson gloves back to life however by the mid-20th century
I get asked all the time about the definition of a workman’s glove and I have my own very strong opinion. I also see many people mis-labeling them all over the place in my opinion. I put together this blog post with the hopes of shedding some more light on the subject for the benefit of the glove collecting community and I wanted some other perspectives so I asked some experts. It’s a long overdue attempt to standardize the language of our hobby.
Here’s the question posed to some glove buddies and their responses copied and pasted exactly as written below and all independent of each other, even mine. Every one was written separately. Please feel free to respond to this post. If you disagree, send a letter to the editor. : )
Q: What is a workman’s glove?
JD, I have rather firm belief in what I discern as a Workman Glove.
It’s just that, it looks like a “workman’s glove”. . . not like a baseball glove of any sort, sans webbing or padding. I read an early descipription of the very early gloves as “brakeman’s glove” one that brakemen on street cars wore in the 19th century and later.
A workman’s glove used by a baseball players in the late 1870’s to early 1880’s was re-purposed by the player from the construction trades, equipment use and men’s furnishings. Once the sporting goods mfgs. started to copy the design of the utility gloves, I think they were just called ball gloves.
To me it is simple, a workmanship glove was just that. It would have been the same glove worn in a steel mill with more of the padding in the palm and finger areas. I would also consider a tipped glove a workman. Once the crescent or a web was added it no longer fits my definition.
Thanks for including me.
Most common answer – a webless glove. Not entirely incorrect, but definitely too loose to be a definition, and that leaves the opportunity to push the boundaries of the timeline.
In my researched opinion – the workman represents the earliest full fingered baseball gloves, closely related to the fingerless gloves of the same era, if they had fingers. No web, no laces, minimal padding and a simple button or snap closure (though I have also seen a picture of a cool lace-up version). I’d include the Irwin glove due to its simplicity and origin (made by a glove maker, who was at the time, not yet a sporting goods giant). The more progressive task-specific baseball styles (gloves with webs or crescent pads) are definitely out of the discussion. This definition excludes probably 99% of the gloves commonly referred to as “workman” style. If it has a logo patch, it’s too late to be a workman. This definition limits the timeline from roughly the 1880s into the 1890s, beginning with catcher’s gloves and ending with fielder’s gloves.
A true workman glove should look like your hand, tall and narrow. They were made on existing glove patterns and simply padded to protect the hands from repetitive impact. The thought of enhancing play – through any means other than by lessening the likelihood of injury – is something you see in later, non-workman gloves. We’ll call those later gloves what they are, sporting goods – goods created specifically for sporting advantage. In the 1880s until the early 1890s there were enough small companies producing small runs of true workman styles to keep them visible, though the sales numbers were likely very low when compared to the offerings in the Spalding catalog. By the late 1880s Spalding was producing a line of “advanced” baseball gloves while other smaller makers were still holding on to more traditional shapes.
One area where the “rules” don’t necessarily apply are within gloves created for catchers. He took the most abuse, and therefore experimentation and personalization were common since the injuries were very specific to each player. In the guides and catalogs of the late 1880s and 90s you continue to see heavily padded hand-shaped gloves, usually made for catchers, where these lines of definition are blurred. Around this same time you also have rule changes which allow for more aggressive pitching techniques and catchers were becoming increasingly under-equipped, thus the rapid changes and experimentation. As a result of the changes in style of play, you see a rapid transition from gloves, to mittens, to mitts due to the pitching. The early 1890s era represents the last hurrah of the workman style glove. By that point they were no longer commonly used behind the plate, but rather by players at other positions who were starting to adopt glove use. Like veteran hockey players in the 1980s who refused to wear helmets, there were very likely a few players who held on to their simple glove styles longer than most. Therefore, it would not be entirely surprising to hear of a player who insisted on using an outdated glove at his second base position, for instance, into the early 20th century. Most however, would have switched years before to a webless, or webbed crescent for their fielding position.
Hope that helps.
The most often misused term in vintage glove collecting is “workman”. It’s constantly thrown around in auction catalogs and on eBay by people trying to overhype a glove and purposely sell you something it’s not. Worse yet, if they honestly don’t know the definition of a “workman” and how to properly categorize a glove, do you really trust them enough to buy from them?
First off, a glove that simply lacks a web does not make it a workman’s glove. If you spend time researching period catalogs, and I highly encourage everyone to do this before they begin to spend larger sums of money, webless gloves were prevalent up to the late 1910’s. They were large, well padded and NOT workman’s gloves in the classical sense of the term. Stepping back to the 1895 to 1905 era, some webless gloves were manufactured with crescent padding in the pocket. Valuable? Yes, very difficult to find and very much in demand, obviously. But are they workman’s gloves? No.
Workman’s gloves, in their purest form and what we’re once and for all trying to define, are from the 1875 to 1890/95 period and were often paired with fingerless glove. They lack a web, as well as a crescent. In fact, they had minimal padding and resembled a glove a railway worker would have used. Usually buckskin, they were often cut in a square pattern. In 25+ years specifically collecting vintage baseball gloves, I’ve seen less than 5 true examples of a workman glove. Odds are, 99.9% of the time you see the term used, the glove is not a workman’s.
To me, a workman glove is a collector-created generic term describing more form-fitting obvious older style gloves in between fingerless and the larger full webs more prominent in the early 1900s. There’s been a debate over the years about whether or not a workman can have a web or not and I fall into the group that believes they can. Glove features evolved and some companies tried new features before others so I don’t subscribe to the belief that there was a distinct separation. There are pre 1900 ads that include both webless and non webless versions and neither are actually referred to as workman in the ad. This unfortunately muddies it up as some kid’s size obvious full webs are mistakenly described as workmans but that adds to the fun/challenge of glove collecting.
This was fun!
A workman’s glove was a glove most likely manufactured prior to the existence of most sporting goods companies. That’s my line in the sand. Some say they were modeled after or made from the brakeman’s gloves a railroad engineer would wear. They were in fact primitive, probably made of buckskin or a non-tanned leather and not mass-produced and were probably, more often than not, homemade or dual purpose work gloves. They were used more for protection than for function. A workman’s glove would never have a web between the thumb and forefinger and would never have a crescent padded heel – never, ever, ever because those were baseball innovations, and thus, baseball gloves. Workman’s gloves date from the late 1870’s and 1880’s. They were utilitarian in nature and modeled or produced for some other purpose first.
If Charlie Waitt was one of the first players to wear a glove in 1875, and Albert Goodwill Spalding started to produce sporting goods in 1876 (after seeing him wear it), and if Peck & Snyder of New York as well as a few other manufacturers were already making sporting goods and baseball goods prior to Spalding, then it’s widely believed that gloves kind of evolved in the late 70’s until the sporting goods manufacturers started producing ’em. Workman’s glove is a term for the most primitive style of a glove that ended up getting used for baseball.
So then what’s a webless glove? Is it also a workman’s glove? This to me is the only (slightly) gray area in my opinion and is mostly a subjective thing. A webless glove was made for the intended use of baseball and would more often than not be manufactured by a sporting goods company. Webless gloves in glove terminology start to resemble professionally made or manufactured baseball gloves as opposed to the crude and dual purpose work glove and that’s usually how I denote or discern the change in terms from workman’s glove to webless glove. Often webless gloves are called workman’s gloves and that’s generally OK because it’s not always quite clear what was made for baseball and what was not so no one usually complains when the two terms are interchanged. There wasn’t a black and white line for what was made for baseball and what wasn’t so I use the term professionally manufactured as my line of demarcation. For the record, I have never seen a sporting goods catalog with the term “workman’s” in it because by the time they started producing them for baseball, they were baseball gloves.
As you can see, there are many similar positions and a few differences, which makes this debate interesting and worthwhile, and you can see why the term is often misused or overused. This was a fun exercise and I hope you all find it enlightening.
My curiosity was aroused the other day when I was reviewing a Lou Brock game-used glove. The thought suddenly occurred to me that there were probably more Brock game gloves in existence than one could find retail endorsed models.
Though he was a MacGregor Glove Company endorser and used the MacGregor gloves for the most part, glove collectors haven’t found any gloves bearing his endorsement from that company. MacGregor in the last half of the 20th century was a transitional “multi-sport corporation” with its origin beginning with the Goldsmith Sporting Goods Company of Cincinnati dating to the turn of the century. It was a large and well respected glove maker for 50 years under that name.
Most glove collectors, like myself are not sure if MacGregor ever put “any” Brock name on one of its retail models, though here’s a genuine Hall of Fame player and deservedly so, breaking none other than Ty Cobb’s career record for stolen bases. He held the single season record for stolen bases and his career theft mark until Rickey Henderson snapped both records. Other achievements include more than 3,000 hits and 1,600 runs scored. An easy selection for the hallowed Hall.
Now, what happened at MacGregor that resulted in it never produced a store model glove for him? One reason might be that MacGregor had also signed glove contracts with three iconic Hall of Famers: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson plus adding Roberto Clemente for a short time during Brock’s playing career. Still it seems one of the strangest omissions for a famous player in baseball history.
It seems like a rare happenstance though. Others come to mind for being on this endorsed glove omission list but they are few and far between. Virtually all the glove companies besides MacGregor hesitated on signing contracts with black stars or producing gloves with their names, after Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier. The Cincinnati based MacGregor, formerly MacGregor-Goldsmith, hit the ground running so to speak, only a few years after talented black players began making names for themselves, like hauling Mays, Aaron, Robinson into their stable of stars. Conversely the famous Jackie Robinson, after his color-line breakthrough, signed with a smaller brand, Dubow but only a rare few of these have ever shown up. After his career was finished, Robinson did team with Caprico, a glove import company, for his name to be stamped on its gloves that were distributed largely in the 1960s.
Glove companies were also apparently reluctant to sign and make gloves for Jewish players: Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax the most prominent of those that come to mind. Greenberg did have a “non-endorsed” block letter retail glove and Koufax a post-career, import model with his signature.
Now there are some other curious names of omitted stars that we ponder about especially in the endorsed glove hay-day those being of Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, whose name did appear on a few imports but apparently never inked with one of the major glove companies. You could add in other standout stars like Allie Reynolds, Ed Lopat or those of Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Hal Newhouser to the list of those ignored though their names have shown up on non-endorsed gloves.
It makes one shake the head in speculation as to why only a few but prominent players were left out of the glove market this way.
Two recent events have set my mind to thoughts of our glove hobby and its evolution in the past 20 years.
One of these is the internet. Our collecting passion for baseball gloves and mitts, like many collectibles in the antique fields, has felt the full impact of the electronic wizardry where we can glean not only myriads of information but discover new and extremely rare finds that we never knew existed. Today we have our own glove forum where the likes of Mike Tinney and others provide us background information on our leather friends and the companies that made them over the last century and a half. This information was agonizingly slow to be discovered before the internet availability.
The other occurrence has been the opportunity for me to view some interesting catchers mitts that date back to 100 years ago, when horseless carriages, the first “global war” and electricity was being harnessed to assist in our everyday living, transforming it forever.
Heritage Sports Auctions afforded me the opportunity to see catchers mitts which had belonged to Hall of Fame and innovative catcher Roger Bresnahan. The mitts, even without the connection to this distinguished player, were worthy of themselves in leading brands of the day like Spalding, Draper-Maynard and Ken-Wel, all top of the line professional styled catchers gear. Coming from Bresnahan’s family descendants This discovery and resulting auction was a rare opportunity for the glove hobby, indeed for baseball history itself. From my past experience with glove auctions, this one stood out for its age and significance. One of the mitts, the Spalding, dated to Bresnahan’s major league career, the others were made and owned and likely used after his active playing days were over. This revelation offers us a chance to see what an early 20th century player of Bresnahan’s reputation would be using.
Roger was credited with being the first to adorn leg or shin guards to protect the lower legs and ankles of the catcher, though he did receive criticism for the attempt when he introduced this equipment in a game.
I sent this information to Richard Macaluso, the Californian who has been working on a baseball book covering the evolution of the catcher’s mitt, titled, “From Buck to Pudge.” The title was a choice Richard made starting with the first star catcher Buck Ewing from the 19th century to “Pudge” Rodriguez, widely acclaimed as the best catcher from the end of the last century.
The Californian also describes the early protective equipment such as Bresnahan’sshin guards as well as the first fully padded and rounded mitts. He will include 350 of his own mitts plus those made available from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
We glovers are also indebted to this marvelous web site furnished by Jim Daniel and our Vintage Baseball Glove Forum arranged by Brett Lowman.
We’ve all come to wonder how our glove collecting passion has fared with the proliferation of the internet. Do gloves still hold their values from our hey-days of the 1990s? Generally we think so, especially Master Collector John Graham, who set the pace for collection of antique, rare and Hall of Fame Gloves. Like Macaluso, Graham took his collection to print in his excellent “Coffee Table” tome, entitled “Baseball Gloves” –Store Model Gloves from 1880’s to 1940’s. Some of John’s mouth-watering gloves send most glovers chills in viewing. The Dallas-area resident put a large bulk of his best gloves into an auction a few years ago but he still claims some of his favorites and, not surprising to some, is back taking aim on some of his favorite Hall of Fame and star store models. “I think it’s a buyer’s market right now for these, and it’s a lot of fun for me. I find, on occasion one of my old gloves, even some new ones. Graham has developed one of the keenest eyes in the hobby. His book remains available on eBay for those interested.
Another fine glove book published by Collector Dave Cunningham’s “Baseball Gloves Merge With America’s Past” ranks high on my list of excellent glove information sources. Cunningham was caught up in the variation of glove webs (an excellent dating earmark) and his book demonstrates the best of his collection. Unfortunately tragedy struck Dave’s home as a fire wiped out virtually every glove he had.
Though eBay may have negatively affected the store model “name” gloves including many hall of famers that have proliferated there, the auction house had highlighted and attracted an audience that was not there a decade or so ago. Baseball collectors who are adding gloves to their collections and displays of favorite players or teams. For instance the ever popular Mickey Mantle gloves still seem to fare well though the more common and cheaper of his models may have dropped in price.
The new glove collectors are educating themselves as to original quality, current commonality and the fact that left-handed gloves, unless they match their players catching hand, don’t bring top prices.
A new market has emerged in the more modern high-quality gloves such as most of Rawlings Heart of the Hide, very high-quality gloves. Bruce Rodgers and Art Katsapis use Rodgers’ web site to market what glove they run across. Both date their beginning in the hobby to the early 1990s but their love goes back further than that.
Long-time glove aficionado and writer David Seideman uses his well-written and popular Forbes web site to promote the glove hobby as well. Seideman probes into many corners of our hobby and relates them to the mainstream baseball collectibles such as the long-time favorite baseball cards, autographs and other mainstream baseball.
In short, the hobby hasn’t gone away like some and I can mention store model bats, golf clubs, stadium seats and others that just haven’t been as successful.
One of the pleasures recently has been to see just how the internet can connect one to the baseball glove world. In the past two years from selling some of gloves I’ve run across by selling our glove price guide has been to receive interest from 1950s player Wally Post cousin, Tom Post, and from the 1930s Pinky Higgins son, Mike Higgins, who were looking for gloves of their relatives.
I don’t know if it’s the weather or if there’s something in the air but it’s definitely tradin’ season. Lots of great gloves changing hands as of late. It’s so exciting.
The glove forum is down due to a corruption of the software files. The issue is above my knowledge level and I’m in contact with a few web programmers to see the most cost effective and efficient way to correct the problem. I’m pretty sure the database has not been compromised so all of the posts and pictures should be there when the software issue is corrected. I do have a complete backup from late October if worst comes to worst. My apologies for the delay in getting it fixed – it took over a week to hear back from the server host before I could gauge how to tackle the issue. Hope to have it back up and running soon. Thanks for your patience.
Word on the street is that a few collectors will be paring down a bit this year. This bodes well for buying opportunities for our collections. Our hobby will benefit by a slight increase in supply as the current demand for quality vintage gloves can more than absorb it. I just hope it’s not all at once, which historically has put downward pressure on prices setting precedence with lower comps. Spread ’em out guys. You’ll get fat and we will all be able to get what we want!
This is my favorite time of year. With the postseason upon us, I’m spending a lot of time in front of the TV watching every game I can along with football on Sunday. With all this time on the couch I have the laptop in overdrive uploading pictures and updating the galleries. We are over 14,000 pics now. If you have any updates of gloves you no longer own and would like me to update the description to “Unknown” or if you have any new keeper glove pics you want to send over, now’s the time to send them and I’ll get them posted ASAP. Also, if you see anything that needs changing in the galleries, please let me know as I always strive to keep them as accurate as possible. Thanks.
While in Minnesota I met up with my old buddy Paul Gertsen. He was gracious enough to take the day off and show me around his stomping grounds. We went antiquing in this neat little town where he had great success for many years. He was so cool that he even tried to give me dibs on anything we found. He’s a helluva guy and always has been.
We had barbecue and a beer right on the Mississippi River and then walked around a local car show afterward. He was attracted to this Plymouth Gold Duster for some reason, ha. I’m a Chevy guy myself. What a fun afternoon.
Here’s a picture of my ’55 before kids, a mortgage and no time relegated her to a storage unit.
Just got back from the All-Star Game in Minneapolis and attended FanFest as always. This year I timed it just right somehow and saw the Lou Gehrig Mitt go off at the Hunt Live Auction. I taped it on my phone in two files. Later on at Target Field I ran out of space on my phone while trying to get my boy’s picture next to the Kirby statue so I furiously started to delete stuff. The Gehrig video took up so much room I decided to kill it. I did manage to keep the other smaller video of the final action. I thought I should post it here before I end up deleting it as well.
It got hammered down for $250,000 or $287,500 with the buyer’s premium.
Gehrig Auction Video
Gehrig Auction Link
David Seideman’s Blog Regarding Ken Wel Lou Gehrig Zipper Back
I recently visited my good friend Mike and of course, we pulled off another whopper due to his generous and brilliant deal-making skills. I purchased his collection of early cabinets and photos. I always admired them and was drawn to them for many reasons and not just because of the equipment. I have identified lots of fingerless gloves, a tipped finger catchers glove, crescents, ring bats, mushroom bats, pennants and just a vast array of early equipment. Funny, those aren’t the ones I was most drawn to. I found a particular interest in the ones with dogs and other mascots like goats or bear cubs. There were some others that sparked an emotion in me like the ones with kids as I have fond memories of coaching my boy’s little league for over 10 seasons (all behind me now). They are just so neat to look at as they represent the history of the game we all love so much from an early Americana perspective. They represent town ball teams, factory teams, company teams, high school teams, semi-pro teams and anyone else able to have a photograph professionally taken.
Congratulations Tim in getting featured in TouchOfModern just in time for Father’s Day. These prints are super cool. Get one for your sports room or office. Remember, BGC members get 15% off.
Check out Tim’s other projects.
TIMOTHYHOGAN INC – Innovative Advertising Images
ESSNTL GALLERY – Groundbreaking Modern Art at Bergamot Station.
THEFINPROJECT.COM – Documentary and Photographic Study featuring Art and Story of the Surfboard Fin
SPORTSCOLLECTORPRINTS.COM – Fine-Art for the Passionate Sports Collector
I’ve been taking advantage of the slow time in the hobby to get caught up with scanning and uploading. I went through some old glove files and scanned in a bunch of sales lists from the 90’s. For you newer collectors, this is how we bought and sold gloves in the old days. Guys would distribute sales lists through the mail – some with pictures and some without. We were always so eager to get these lists, go through them very quickly and place our calls ASAP before they were gone. Since most of the lists originated from the northeast, I always lost out on gloves already being sold by the time I got them in So-Cal – the rough life of a left-coaster. We used to buy gloves without ever seeing pictures of them. It’s neat to get nostalgic and see some of the gloves I purchased back then.
If anyone would like me to remove their sales lists I’d be happy to. It’s simple enough to do. Just drop me a note and I’ll gladly delete them. This was just a way for me to document our hobby’s history while getting more organized by digitizing the boxes of hobby paper I have accumulated over the years.
Please see the Hobby Historical section in the Glove Library. Enjoy.
I recently finished Joe’s second edition of Nokona Ball Gloves A Texas Tradition. It contains many new updates from the first printing five years ago. Even as a passionate Nokona collector I learned many new things about the company from reading these two books. Did you know the city of Nocona was named after a Comanche Indian chief, Pete Nokona and that although the Nocona Athletic Goods Company started in 1926, it didn’t start producing sporting goods until 1934? I especially loved the wartime production years when Nokona solicited the help of H.B. Doc Hughes. You know, the guy whose name we find on so many high quality gloves made in Mexico when Nokona switched over to wartime production and couldn’t sell gloves for retail and had to turn to south of the border to produce these gloves.
How did Stall & Dean, Reach, Wilson, Rawlings and Collum & Borem play into Nokona’s rich history? When and why did they change the spelling from a “C” to a “K”? These questions are answered in the pages within this well-researched biography of Nokona along with player endorsement bios, stories and lists. You gotta read the one about Billy Martin and Wilson.
Learn about Nokona’s experimentation with different hides like brahma, bison, kangaroo and ostrich. The book ends with an introduction to the new owners and Nolan Ryan’s endorsement.
This book will appeal to the casual glove collector as well as those curious about Nokona, their rich history and the players. Nice job Joe. I’m grateful to you guys who write glove books.
I usually think gloves look best in person. I now stand corrected. Back when Timothy Hogan came by and to shoot my collection for ESPN The Magazine (see the blog post here) I was amazed at what went into making these photographs – and at the final result.
Now, he’s launched a new website specifically for sports collectibles, and I think its a home run. Please visit it HERE.
He’s made a beautiful series of images that can be framed and shipped right to your door. My favorite is the framed canvas – it’s like a painting. He’s even been gracious enough to extend a 15% discount to all of my visitors using code BGC15.
So check it out. They’re perfect for baseball nuts like us for our sports rooms or offices.
Be sure to link up with them on Facebook as well. They’ve got a very cool timeline going of the images and their backstory and I know he’d appreciate it if you spread the word to your friends.
I think it’s a cool project. Check out Timothy’s other work HERE.
Jonathan is at it again. He continues to take us on a collecting journey with his follow up entitled Dugout Treasures, Collecting Crossroads while exploring the theme of change. This book is an asset to our hobby and I commend him for writing it. I wish more people would follow his lead and write a book to be cherished within our hobby. Nice job bud. The new pieces are exquisite. Here’s a taste. Pick up a copy or send one as a gift for the holidays. You can get it here http://www.dugouttreasures.com/book.cfm .
I flew to Montana late Friday night to spend a full day on Saturday with my buddy Mike. We had a lot of catching up to do. It was short by design though. Any longer and we would have slipped into our old ways and done another mega-deal as I can’t trust myself. Well, true to form, maybe we did a little one…
We always have a great time together and he’s such a gracious host. I consider myself a baseball guy through and through but I have nothing on him. He is the truest baseball man I know in all respects. Here are a couple of pics of Mike with some of his game-used gloves. He’s pushing 60 of them I think. Oh man! There are some cool ones, old and new. Drinking Moose Drool beer while playing baseball stuff with Mike is my kinda day.
I just got off the phone with our glove buddy Dave Cunningham who had very bad news to report. His home caught fire and everything was completely destroyed including his life’s belongings, family memories and his one of a kind Glove Web and Softball Glove collection consisting of over 150 of the toughest web styles he accumulated right alongside of us.
It happened on August 16th at about 1:30 in the morning while he was in bed, and it happened so fast and furious that he barely had time to get his wife Erlene and his son Aaron out in time. The Fire Department said he only had about another minute or so to spare. He had to feel around for door handles to find his way out as he couldn’t see anything. That’s how intense the smoke and flames were. The fire was caused by a battery pack charging overnight. Although many chargers for our cell phones, laptops, etc. have self shut-offs, not everything does. Please be aware of that fact.
Dave wanted to remind everyone to check their smoke detectors as that’s what saved his life. Dave, as sharp and responsible as he is, always kept them in good working order and tested them regularly. He also had a rider on his insurance policy covering his glove collection. Remember folks, a homeowner’s policy won’t cover a memorabilia type collection like that without a rider. Luckily he had insurance to soften the blow but those gloves are irreplaceable. Thankfully he memorialized them in his three books to the benefit of hobby generations to come.
Thank God he has so many friends and a wonderful community of supporters around him. He is doing fine considering and his family is living about a mile away from his old home in a rental until they rebuild. His new home won’t be ready for a good five months. Despite all he’s been through recently, he still maintains his composure and sense of humor and said, “Well JD, those old gloves went out in a blaze of glory.” We all cope with things in our own way and I’m sure Dave’s strong character is getting him through. The last picture shows where his prized softball glove collection used to be displayed. There are absolutely no remains of it.
For those of you who don’t know Dave, he is one of the good guys. Just wanted to pass along the sad news and hope you will all reach out to our friend and send your well wishes and prayers. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Back in the summer of 2012, a classic find of mint condition baseball cards were located in the attic of an Ohio home.
These cards, though not in a particular valuable or rare issued set from the 1920s, took the baseball collecting world and especially the venerable card market by shock and the find was valued by some in the millions of dollars. The eventual auction house hired to auction the cards was cautious not to offer all the cards out at once because it might create a temporary filling of the hobbyists buying tank. Sales distribution was deliberate and careful.
Most notably two years ago at the National one particular dealer in vintage photographs had cornered thousands of rare original photo prints archived in The Sporting News (“Bible of Baseball”) files and buyers thronged to the booth with the images. Soon thousands of new original photos were flooding the marketplace from the national and other distribution areas. What resulted was that the market price for those and most old original pictures plummeted.
In the fall of 2011, something similar occurred in the glove market as a Texas ebayer suddenly was selling hundreds of rare and not so rare gloves basically it seems from one collection. In addition were nice boxes with their gloves The listings were described hurriedly and without much care or great appeal. Done in assembly fashion. All the listings were monotonously similar “Ultra Rare”; when in fact most were not particularly rare, conveying an erroneously mind set for collectors new to the hobby. . But by anyone’s reasoning, it created a buyer’s market at the time that has carried over for the following year, and perhaps will last longer.
Besides some treasured hall of famers, came scarcely ssen gloves like Willie Miranda, Lyle Judy, Herman Franks, Hal Warslter. Hal Schumaker, Bud Clancy, Dario Logianai, Johnny Mostil, Del Pratt, Zeb Terry, Jo Jo White, Aam Comorosky, Monte Irvin, Jack Burns, Zeke Bonura, Jimmy Gleason, Jesse Craddock, Tom Bridges, Johnny Croner. On and on . . . of often “seen only once before” gloves were being offered.
The glove buying market, not particularly a wide niche one, began to absorb as much as it could but soon the sponge was soaked. The normal postings of gloves from various sellers around the country felt the impact seeing prices for their offerings grow weak.
As glove collectors we may be feeling the impact of this “glove spigot release” for some time. Hopefully, it has attracted some new buyers to our hobby at the same time.
I helped my folks in the rafters of their garage today and found my dad’s old typewriter from when he was a Dodgers beat writer back in ’76 and ’77. Story goes, he was at Spring Training with the Dodgers in Vero Beach, Florida in 1977 and he won the Shag Shaughnessy award for best Spring Training story or piece. Fred Claire, then the Dodgers Press Secretary, presented him with this award. The way he tells it was that all the other writers told Mr. Claire to give the award to “Daniel” because he needed a new typewriter. Great stuff but I tend to believe he won it on the merit of his work. He is a helluva writer.
In June, 2012 I was contacted by ESPN The Magazine through the website about doing a piece on collections and the evolution of the baseball glove. We corresponded back and forth for months, traded some pics and then they said they would send out some photographers to shoot the gloves. (I could have saved them a lot of time as I’m the world’s worst photographer – no brainer.) They asked me to pick out 20 so I did. The piece, called The Collection, was to be their biggest spread to date, four pages versus the typical one page and focuses on different types of sports collections. I chose a few of my favorites and some others I thought would appeal to the typical sports fan and reader like a two finger, a three finger, WWI & WWII gloves, a Winchester and an Abercrombie & Fitch as most people wouldn’t know they made gloves way back when. So, they sent out three professional photographers led by Timothy Hogan to shoot the 20 gloves front and back. Then came the equipment…
I could not have imagined the production involved in shooting a few gloves. I usually throw a poster board on the floor, drop a glove on it, turn on the flash and hit a button, then flip and repeat. That’s the extent of my mad photography skills. Not these guys. Each side of a glove took time to stage and then 20 minutes of actual shooting time. They would hit a button and walk away. The camera would take 20 pictures of the glove and overlay one image on top of the other over the 20 minute period. The resulting image was a whopping 500MB file (made up of 20 shots). When we amateurs snap pics, the file size is about 1 or 2 MB. These big files could be blown up, projected on the side of a building and not lose resolution and they were only going into a magazine.
Great guys Tim and his crew. They shot for two full days. It had to be expensive. After they were done on a Friday evening, Tim staged them into a collage on a whim. He wanted more gloves so they took some off the shelves in my office. Those gloves were just great feelers that I like to put on when I’m on the phone and otherwise aren’t too special and ended up rounding out the collage.
When it was all said and done, ESPN had sold more advertising space then they had planned and decided to use the one collage shot instead of the 40 other pics. It made the March 4, 2013 Spring Training issue.
For some reason I have a special respect for Joe Gordon. Maybe it was after I first saw When it Was a Game on HBO or maybe because he was one heckuva player. Most Gordon glove models are quite common and were made by Marathon (Montgomery Wards), Folsom, Sonnett, OK, M&H Sporting Goods and Stall & Dean. I have owned all of them at one point and over 60 in all according to my records and most were had in the $10-$30 range except for the nice ones.
Although Gordon gloves are plentiful, Nr-Mt or mint ones and the boxes they came in are not. I recently completed my quest for all the known boxes and I couldn’t be more excited. For me, it’s what colleting is all about – setting a goal and accomplishing it. As my glove collecting approaches 20 years, I have never seen any other Gordon box models. If there are any others I want ’em.
The first one is a Marathon 4206. The second is a Folsom G225. The third is a Marathon 4205 and the best looking box in my opinion. The next is a Marathon 4207 and my favorite Gordon glove model. The last one is another 4205 and a variation and is the toughest Gordon box known. I have never seen another. The green one is tough but there are a few known. (Note about Marathon glove model numbers – if a left-handed model exists, it usually ends in 6 when it’s right-handed counterpart ends in 5.)
A sale on ebay that’s been up for over a year carries some mint and mint in the box gloves that we determined came from 1980s sale of gloves from a store or warehouse in Baltimore. That sale resulted in a Glove Collectors Book being produced by Jim Mace, son of a doctor who had purchased many of these gloves. I think we estimated that there may have been easily more than one hundred gloves and many with their boxes. Collector John Graham and I got a “sniff” of these at the 1991 Sports Collectors National held in Dallas. A lawyer in Fort Worth had purchased them from the original sale and had about 30 of these gloves on his table. John and I got busy buying some. I still have my mint Eddie Miller MacGregor Goldsmith glove from that purchase.
We thought, at the time, this would be it for a large lot of near mint to mint gloves and boxes up for sale. This turned out to be the second largest of this type.
I had a couple of leads on mint “warehouse” gloves existing in Kansas somewhere from a Nocona rep who worked out of Kansas at one time saying that a former employer of his had stored some gloves in a warehouse. Months later some of the gloves actually showed up in our giant East Texas flea market in Canton Texas. (“found, the story goes, in a yard sale in Wichita, Kansas.”) Weeks later a phone call resulted in us finding a gentleman Frank Wolfe, former owner of the Wichita Sporting Goods. To make the story short Mr. Wolfe hadn’t paid his rent on his storage of some 400 gloves and the Warehouse owner had taken over the property. We contacted the owner and Dave Bushing and I purchased the 400 plus gloves, divided them and had a heck-of-a glove sale for about six months shortly thereafter. Seeing all those gloves at one time sort of took our breath away. One glover who came by got a glance and said “well I just died and went to heaven!”
As we mosey on down the road some 20 years later, nothing like these two sales has emerged, not even from the TV show “Locker Wars.” But, there’s always that hope. Near mint and mint gloves still demand the best prices on ebay and this is true for virtually all antiques and collectibles.
The Baltimore find released many late 1930s early 1940s gloves and the Kansas Sale mostly 50s gloves. There might have been a total of 600 gloves combined from both sales. Some of these seem to drift by the ebay stream from time to time. A smaller sale of dozens of gloves “Em-Jays” wound up in the hands of Collector Dan Creed in Chattanooga. It seems these came from North or South Carolina. Dan still collects gloves today.
Oddly a year before the Kanas find I purchased 30 mint and mint in the box gloves including a couple of Mickey Mantle gloves from the just closed Potchernik Sporting Goods in San Antonio, Texas.
Biggest change in the hobby has been that the premium gloves like the Rawlings Heart of the Hides, USA Wilson A2000s, late model Nokonas demand very good prices.
This was illustrated in a 125 glove purchase I made early last fall, mostly autograph models but the best sales came from the 1980s and 1990s Nokonas and Rawlings Heart of the Hide Gloves.
The future will tell us when another “Time Capsule” of gloves may emerge! Keep your eyes and ears peeled. Or just test the air for glove leather.
Ran out of room in the closet so I had to shuffle and move some things to overflow. Boxes are the pinnacle of the hobby but they take up so much room. Once you get one in the box, there’s nowhere to go from there. I get such a kick out of pairing up a glove with the empty box. It gives me something to do and something to strive for. It keeps it exciting for me. But, I’m almost out of room!
These are old photos. I’m up to about 40 Nokona boxes and it’s what I mainly try to collect now. If anybody has any Nokona boxes, empty or not, please let me know.
Back in the early yon of glove collecting, (early 1990s) several movies were in the hopper. “Eight Men Out” about the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal and a followup bigger box office draw, “Field Of Dreams.” Both movies were under the direction of John Sales.
Curiosity got the best of us as we were publishing “The Glove Collector” Newsletter at the time and we interviewed the man responsible for making some gloves and baseballs for both movies John Laliloff (sp.?) John went to some time and effort in re-creating the balls and gloves and laughed when I asked what happened to the earlier movie’s gloves from “Eight Men Out.” “The actors took them home I guess.”
A year or so later another baseball movie for a salute to the Ladies who played baseball during World War II, “A League of Their Own” needed gloves and we were contacted by the prop master John Allen for a Nokona reproduction (they needed a new glove for a scene) and some older ones which David Bushing provided the set. Bushing told me later he wished he’d just loaned the gloves and had gotten them back. At any rate the new glove I sent was used by some of the actresses before the new glove scene was shot and we had to send another. We got the used glove back and it rests in our collections.
Following this we were approached by the prop man for the movie “For the Love of the Game” who needed some earlier gloves for the “growing up” scenes. We turned him to vintage glove collector Doug Wolk who provided some of his leather from Oshkosh, WI. No “call” from movies until Spike Lee’s company phoned us to get a vintage trapper mitt for his planned movie on Jackie Robinson’s life. We assume the movie never got off the ground though we did get a check for a trapper from Lee’s company. Oddly that led the latest round of inquiries this from J. P. Jones who was assigned as prop master J. P. Jones. We advised him on the proper look for a mid 1940s trapper and told him we would be glad to help provide him some gloves. He never got back to us but did get some gloves from active internet sellers like Brett Lowman and Rob Mucha who sold some gloves to him. He also turned Rawlings for a re-make of the trapper. Bob had to tap me for a used ’40s trapper to see how the patterns he had fit together. Unfortunately once the “Humpty Dumpty” Trapper was taken apart, alas, it couldn’t be put back together again.
So it goes in the film industry.
We were in touch with Lamar Smith who said some of the scenes in the upcoming flick were filmed at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field and that he and fellow collectors “checked out” the gloves being used. Smith added that 6,000 “balloon people” were used to fill the stands.
Many times gloves are used in scenes in non baseball films and this always draws attention from glove collectors. Most talked about is the German POW cam’s Steve McQueen who goes into his solitary cell with his ball glove and ball for the movie, “The Great Escape.”
One never can tell when a ball glove might steal the scene!
Per your requests, I uploaded all my Oregon Trail catalogs to the Glove Library. It’s fun to reminisce and get nostalgic about the old days of the hobby but it’s even more fun to see so many glove offerings. Oh how we used to look forward to receiving these. Go to the Glove Library and take a look. You won’t see any graded cards in here.
As I was putting Jonathan’s book on the shelf in my library, I came across this old one from 1992. Has anybody read it? Do you agree with his predictions? How do you think it holds up today? It’s interesting to compare the landscape of ’92 to today.
Back in December I received a rogue package in the mail with a personal note accompanying a book. This note, so eloquently and passionately written, moved me. It was from Jonathan informing me that he had spent the last two years writing a book and asked if I would give it a read.
A new baseball book? I’m in! I have every one ever written on the subject of baseball gloves. I was excited to start reading it. I thought if this book is anything like his note, then I’m gonna love it. He appeared to be quite a writer so I eagerly opened it up and then saw the first picture. Simply stunning. Screw the writing I thought. These pieces and pictures are fantastic. I quickly flipped the page and saw another, and another. The brilliant photography and presentation made it impossible for me to put down. Here’s a hint of what I mean (click on the photos to enlarge):
I did this through half the book before I decided to stop looking and start reading. I’m glad I did. Jonathan is a storyteller. He writes about collecting, but more importantly, about the joy of collecting. He tells us stories about his time on the hunt with his father, John, and his brother, Michael. These stories weave the theme of the joy of the hunt, the passion of collecting and more importantly, doing it with those closest to you. The bond he shares with his family is quite evident and the collection they put together is even more special because they did it as a family. His sincerity and passion were exciting.
After reading the stories about how their pieces were acquired it became evident why it was so difficult to wrangle some of them out of their collection. There is a story behind every piece (oftentimes an educational one), and Jonathan intimately brings us along for the ride. I couldn’t help but reflect back on how much fun I too have had on the hunt over the years and how I long for the innocence of my early days searching for and collecting gloves. I look forward to re-experiencing the hobby through my son’s youthful eyes and I have Jonathan and his memories to thank, and for that, I’m grateful.
Please go to Dugout Treasures Book to order a copy. Enjoy this great hobby and enjoy the read. I know I did, four times…
The publication in June of 1991 of the story on Nokona glove making and our program to make reproduction of its gloves had the germination of a chance conversation with Jim Storey, then president of Nocona Athletic Goods. When we told him were looking for a direct mail marketing program, he mentioned that many old Nokona glove users often asked if the company could re-make its old gloves that they loved. So, the project began with many twists and turns.
Beneficially, it resulted in Nocona Athletic Goods being put back on the map as one of the last of the American Made glove makers and helped them out of a recession of sorts trying to compete with foreign made gloves which had simply shut down domestic plant after plant.
The shock immediate shock wave of the the S. I. story was tsunami in effect. We took 13,000 phone calls in a month. Nocona had about that many and were swamped. In short, we were swamped with requests that it took five or six months to fill.
It gradually segued into a new interest in old baseball gloves and eventually spilled over into bats and vintage baseballs through the decade of the 1990s.
A new era of collecting baseball gloves had dawned.
There were several little side notes to the “big” glove finds.
1. The Baltimore or Dr. Mace find. John Graham and I were able to buy about a half dozen of these gloves, some still in their original boxes from a Fort Worth Texas collector who had about 20 or 30 of them and who had owned them for some time (he told us that some of the boxes he had simply fell apart in his cellar where he had stored them. I still have my Mac Goldsmith Eddie Miller. I believe I see five of these glove finds listed under a five glove lot on ebay for about a Grand apiece. Been listed for more than a year though with no takers. Dr. Mace must have purchased more than a hundred of these, I believe which were in an auction held by veteran dealer Lew Lipsett. If memory serves. These gloves can be viewed by Jim Mace’s book on glove collecting.
On the Kansas find, one might assume from the five glove, $5 thousand dollar listing that those hundred or so gloves would set up a nice retirement. We tracked these gloves for more than a year after being tipped off by a Sporting Goods rep. but the original owner denied their existence up until his warehouse owner sold them off. A lesson learned there that I’m sure has been repeated in many antique find situations.
Collector Dan Creed of Chattanooga was able to land about 30 of the emjay find gloves. Dan drew some publicity on this including a page in our Glove Collector Newsletter. Some of these gloves still make the rounds. Oddly the warehouse (see Locker Wars on TV) confiscated the gloves and had some of them in a yard sale in Kansas.
Question now is WHEN does the next big glove find emerge???
We often wonder when we might get into another “big” glove find with multiples of mint/near mint gloves from old Sporting Goods stores or warehouses. There were several of these glove mines discovered in the late 1980s and 1990s. The biggest of these was what we’ve termed the “Kansas Find” in a warehouse just out of Wichita Kansas. Dave Bushing and I finally peeled back the layers of discoveries that kept popping up here and there and reached the man who had possession of the gloves, about 400 of them, mostly of the gloves of the 1950s including 40 some odd Duke Snider DS Rawlings models. When we assembled them in Dave’s home in Chicago, a collector who came by, sighed, “Well, I just died and went to heaven.”
It was a momentous time but in a year or so all of them were sold off.
Only about a year before this I found a cache of gloves from a “closing down” sporting goods store in San Antonio named Potcherniks (sp). There were about 30 gloves in boxes including some Mickey Mantle gloves.
Other discoveries of course was the late 1980s of a warehouse in Baltimore where some 100 plus gloves were uncovered and sold with Dr. Mace buying hundreds of these and his son, Jim, later published a book covering and posting pictures of these gloves. The book still makes the rounds on the internet sales.
Others that come to mind are the “EmJay” gloves (Denkert made I think) that came out of North or South Carolina. We did a story on one collector who purchased many of these, Dan Creed. I believe there were 40 or 50 of these gloves that made it to market.
The only other “lot” finds I can recall was that a collector turned up about 20 or 30 mostly Spalding gloves, with several Sal Bando gloves and MacGregor Tony Perez models.
Before the Kansas discovery, we were kept busy producing Nokona replica gloves from Nokona which were becoming popular from an article “Sports Illustrated” did on the company and our project to reproduce these.
Soon, all we could concentrate on in the next few years was providing information on the baseball glove collecting hobby which was beginning to take off.
Next: Watching the hobby mature.
Just released! New EXPANDED VERSION of “Baseball Gloves Merge With America’s Past” is now in 3 different book formats. The hot off the press glove book has over 110 pages loaded with more than 500 high quality glove related pictures depicting glove evolution. It is now available in three formats: printed book, CD-book and PDF-book and can be purchased at Dave Cunningham’s new website at www.vintageballgloves.com. Any of the three book formats focus on the history of ball glove evolution alongside our great nation’s past. Check them out by visiting Dave’s new website.
Over the last couple of years John Graham and I would meet up for breakfast or lunch every couple of months when he was in Orange County. Well I got to Dallas recently and spent some time with John. Finally got to see his collection in person. OMG! What a collection. He was the most gracious host. Had a great time. Then we had lunch with Joe, TGC himself. Man he’s a hoot. It sure was great to see him again too. It had been too long.
Our great hobby is getting all kinds of publicity lately with the Tornado Palm, Brett on ESPN E-60, Joe’s comments in the Dallas Morning News, John Graham’s book and now Dave’s enjoyable follow-up book entitled Baseball Gloves Merge With America’s Past in which Dave weaves an American historical thread through the evolution of ball gloves. This new book has many more glove pictures and pages than his two previous books and was written with the love and memories of his dad in mind.
Great job Dave. The hobby can always use more glove books. Thank you.
Dave can fill you in on all the specifics if you contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s selling this book for $24.
This beautiful Christy Mathewson Goldsmith JG8 Spider Web glove just came across my desk to sell. It marks just the 10th Matty to surface in the hobby. The seller is not a glove collector so this one was unknown til now and that’s exciting to me as a collector. It makes you wonder how many other great gloves have yet to be found. This is the first Matty to sell publicly in about three years and that one was a youth-sized spider web as well. I believe it is from the early 1920’s. This glove is in wonderful condition and retains almost all of the silver in the stampings and has not been cleaned. Of the five Matty’s I have seen in person, this is in the nicest condition. I’m glad I got to see it. Thanks KS.
This is what we mean by pain for pain. Don’tworry RBD, the sorrow will go away in just shy of 10 years. That’s what Rob keeps telling me of our earlier trades.
In casual conversation with then Nocona Glove President Jim Storey in 1990, I mentioned a project using Nocona ball gloves as a direct mail project. He replied that they always had requests for players wanting their old gloves from previous years, even previous decades. “We can still make them as we have the dies. Maybe we can re-make some of our old gloves and you can sell them.” It sounded like a good idea as Nocona could use the extra work and production.
We began by designing a catalog for some of their more popular early models like those of Carl Erskine, Chico Carrasquel, mostly from the 1950s. Test mailings were made with eventual modest results but almost immediately, a major problem arose when Mr. Storey discovered that the dies used to make the older gloves had been sold for scrap metal so that the gloves would have to be laboriously made largely but hand cutting and sizing. A more expensive prospect. Nevertheless, we plunged ahead with the program.
Being an old PR man I decided to mail our sample catalogs of the oldies along with a news release. A few weeks later, I received a call from Karen Rosen who was a “stringe/writerr” for Sports Illustrated. She asked if she could do a story and I thought she wanted a phone interview. WRONG! She was flying into Dallas the next week and wanted me to take her to Nocona to meet the glove makers there. This we did and she interviewed the Storeys, asked her questions and we drove back to Dallas. A month or so later she ran her story by me for accuracy and it sounded fine. This was in late 1990. Nothing happened for months.
In April of 1991, I received a call from a photographer in New Orleans who was coming to Nocona and wanted me to accompany him to Nocona for the photo shoot for Karen’s story. We jaunted by up to North Texas and along with the Nocona employees posed for the pictures. Then, another wait began. In early June a Sports Illustrated “Checking Editor” called for final edit and fact checking. She informed me that the story would run in SI’s June 24, 1991 edition. What would happen?
After the magazine and the story hit the subscribers and newsstands, all hell-bent for leather hit. In three weeks with a WATTS line I took 13,300 calls in three weeks. Nocona was also inundated with calls. My family and I were answering the phone for orders, several hundred quickly. I called Jim Storey, who was swamped with his regular orders being increased because of the article, and he was fumbling for time and trying to grasp the reality of the situation. “We cannot get these orders out in time as we’ve just got one man dedicated to handling this here,” he bemoaned. “I don’t think he can handle it as he has medical issues.” Alas, my task was now to placate order customers and encourage Nocona to make as many of our Nokona replicas as possible. Unfortunately Jim Storey died a few months after this from a sudden heart attack and the stress this may have placed part of the burden on him. His brother Bobby, who was Chairman of the Board, stepped in and re-makes hit the market to generally satisfied and patient customers. Nocona’s glove orders for their modern gloves also burgeoned. And remember, Nocona and Rawlings were about the only USA major glove makers at work about this time.
Eventually, the pace settled down. But, the genesis of glove collecting had started as calls from people across the country asked about getting their old gloves from past childhoods again and, lo, we began to discover guys and girls who were collecting vintage and antique baseball gloves. A new hobby would be ushered in and eventually I would turn away less from Nocona’s and other replica gloves to tending to the glove collecting hobby furnishing glove guides, newsletters and source books to the thousands of interested hobbyists who were reliving their youthful days of sandlot and amateur baseball.
Would I have changed a minute of it? Not at all. Great friends, great moments, from major league ball player interviews to working with a set of glove hobbyists that I sincerely feel have been like none others. With the help of Dave Bushing whom I met in the course of these early events, we came up with our first Glove Price Guide and I was busy hammering away on the first set of newsletters that eventually number more than 100 over two decades. Bushing had been involved with vintage gloves and bats. We would both get involved in providing gloves for movie making like “A League of Their Own,” with Tom Hanks. We also, through Nocona, furnished replica gloves for the “Ghost Players” who appeared out of the corn field in Dyersville, Iowa (Heaven?) where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed. They were weaing their old style glove along with their 1919 White Sox remake uniforms for games for the many tourists attracted to the town and site from the movie.
This became an exciting time of youth restoration and recapturing dreams of childhood and, along with it, a special hobby was born.
I have been on such a boxed glove kick as of late. I have been trading off lots of stuff that isn’t boxed toward stuff that is. It took me many years to get here but now I finally appreciate them for what they are. From a collecting standpoint, it’s the ultimate way to complete something – get it in the box and check it off the list forever. I get such a kick out of buying empty boxes and finding their matches. I feel accomplished when I do.
Ricky Bulldog has dangled these in front of me for some time and we finally pulled it off. The trade was actually bigger but these were the boxes that got me excited enough to finally update this page. Thanks so much bud for holding them for me and since cash is tight for most of us right now, trading is a lot more fun and easy to do than buying. Everyone keep up their trader photos in the Collector’s Corner and keep their gloves updated in the galleries. A lot of us are doing lots of trades lately.
I just finished looking through my copy of my buddy John Graham’s new book for like the fifth time. I never get tired of looking at pictures of great gloves. John and his family put together an incredible book memorializing his amazing collection. What a fun way to memorialize the greatest private glove collection ever assembled. This elegant book is exactly what the hobby needs and is a must have for anybody who loves baseball or who has ever collected anything. I couldn’t recommend it more. It contains many high resolution color pictures of the most sought after gloves in the hobby like 19th century gloves, novelty gloves, Hall of Famer’s, rare models and boxed gloves to name a few in its over 250 pages. It was also nice to see lots of my old glove friends who have permanently found their way home. Great job John. I’m proud of you.
You can order your copy directly from his new website:
Would love to hear what you all think.
Mike, you are a very, very bad influence on me.
Got to Tahoe for Spring Break to do some snowboarding and I hooked up with my bud Josh Maddux who recently relocated from Indiana to Nevada. He works with the Reno Aces, a Triple A Diamondbacks club starting their second season. It was good to see him again. Man, it was cold. The park and operation were first rate. I was very impressed. It was a fun opening night at the ballpark and the Aces won their opener in the 12th.
In the spirit and intent of the Collector’s Corner, I just wanted to post a quick note to let everyone know that I will be deleting all profiles on April 1st that aren’t at least half way filled out. If you get deleted then you can re-register and fill out another profile. Two other Administrators and I will be frequently monitoring the profiles to see if they get filled out. If not, those will be deleted again. Thanks.
It’s official. I’ve decided I’m not much of a blogger. Just not that into it I guess. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m a little burnt out. You know how you have ups and downs and highs and lows in collecting? Well I’m at the trough and am looking for the recovery, the upswing. Sorry for the business cycle references but that’s how my little mind works.
Back to blogging. It’s not that I don’t have much to talk about or say but rather that I’m always saying it. Why write about it too. I speak to my glove buddies very regularly and always have two or three trades going so there is a lot of back and forth. I return close to 100 e-mail inquiries a week so that takes up a lot of time too. I continually monitor the Forums and eBay but somehow don’t see half the great items that everyone else does – probably for the better.
I could talk about having the pleasure of looking at two more advanced book screenings. Yep, two more glove books are coming out as well as Joe’s Nokona book. I could talk about a bunch of us going to the National and raising hell and loitering in Brett and William’s booth. We’re thinking of broadcasting or streaming live video from the National. Maybe we’ll be posting on the Forum in real time for those who can’t attend. One guy might even have a continuous PowerPoint slideshow of gloves showing on a screen. We are attempting to draw more attention to the hobby because one thing is certain. Prices are historically low and this is great if you are a collector. I have added so many pieces to my collection recently that I can’t afford to keep up the pace. I don’t know why I’m complaining as I’m a collector and not a dealer. The problem is that it doesn’t stop coming and that concerns a lot of us as it appears that there aren’t enough new collectors to absorb all the gloves. Quantity supplied seems to exceed the demand keeping prices low. We are just thinking that it couldn’t hurt to help the demand curve shift to the right a little to bring the equilibrium prices back up to where they were. Do we just chalk it up to the economy, high unemployment? Well that’s a weak and overly simplistic argument. Are more collectors unemployed or cash-strapped as of late? Are they anticipating high tax bills? I’d love to blame it on the latter but that’s probably a bit pre-mature. It’s coming though. I promise but I won’t go there…yet.
Anyway, I thought I would just write something to change that link on the site so you guys don’t have to keep looking at my ugly mug from the last post. I had plans of making this section of the site a lot more dynamic than I have been but I’ll get rejuvenated. I always do and when Ricky and Brett recently called me with two great items I needed, I have to admit, the juices got a flowin’. More soon.
Did anyone catch Tom Bartsch’s comments in his column in last month’s SCD? It’s nice when our little hobby gets some mention in papers. Story in the Library entitled Grabbing a Mitt Can Take You Back 50 Years.
In mid December of 1975 on the referral of a friend, my boss and I travelled some 70 miles to the tiny North Texas town of Nocona, Texas to call on a prospective new client, Nocona Athletic Goods Company, producer of the Nokona gloves which I had used in past days and was very familiar with. It was to prove, an eventful journey. We met the then president of the company, Jim Storey, son of the founder who had recently retired, Bob Storey. We also chatted with Jim’s brother Bobby, who later became one of several 50 year associates there. This, in a way, was a rather dark time for Nocona for imports had not only eroded but washed over similar glove companies like Stall & Dean, Dubow, Hutch. The biggies like Rawlings, Spalding, Wilson and MacGregor would begin half or almost full imports a short time later. Endorsements, which prior to 1960 had been a couple of gloves and a two pair of cleats, was now drastically changed. Ballplayers were not only making more money for their playing services but demanding endorsement money.
About all Nocona could do, since, in a way it was under the radar of competitors and was the second biggest employer in their town of some 3,00o plus in a stable if precarious position to make it through if their loyal store customers would stick with them and many of these did, appreciating the quality of Nokona gloves and the fairness and friendliness of the way the family-owned company operated. Good old boys. . . if you prefer.
But with the changing of the times, came a shortage of marketing ideas to keep the company afloat. Nocona was attempting to put its 1976 catalog out which consisted of a two-color cover and one-color illustrated products inside, not exactly state-of-the art at the time. They were attempting to print the catalog locally with a gentleman who had secured an SBA loan but evidently knew little about the business. We strolled into his “plant” past darkened offices, no one present to greet us, not even a secretary. We could spot a light in the back press room and headed back. There, on top of the press, scrambling around was the sole occupant. He hit us with, “do any of you guys know anything about running a press?”
We knew some help was needed, scurried back to Dallas during a mild dust storm and began our “road taken” with Nocona, that has led me to many pleasurable hours and days and years over the last three decades. Not a better bunch of folks to work with and friends and customers who were loyal to a fault. We developed an advertising plan, upgraded their catalog up to a more modern look and began some new approaches on a very limited budget.
Jim Storey was one of those typical baseball people who was full of anecdotes and many of these I have shared in my new book “75 Years Nocona Ball Gloves. . .A Texas Tradition. . . Major League players using Nocona gloves? Well, there was Crazy Joe Charbeneau, better known for eating glass among his skills. Endorsers none. . . that were still active. And I did get to attend my first National Sporting Goods show where I met Nocona’s noted supporter the fabled Bobby Bragan and got to amble down to the Rawlings booth were some guy named Ted Williams was giving batting pointers to Keith Hernandez. This could spoil a fellow. I began using a BM76 Nokona glove for my softball which was an improved design of Jay Rawlings, who had migrated to Nocona as its new designer after working with Rollie Lattina at the Rawlings plant (Jay was no relation to the Rawlings family).
One day while waltzing through the upper floor of Nocona’s plant with Jim Storey, he asked me, “any idea how we can sell these gloves? He pointed to hundreds of boxed Spalding gloves that Nocona has made for that company but were no longer needed. Jim and Bobby Storey told me that Spalding had approached them a few years earlier about producing some USA gloves now that Spalding’s agreement with Rawlings to make their gloves, was no longer in force. “We made them for two year and had, in a sort of gentleman’s agreement, made some in advance for this year. When we called them to deliver these, Spalding told us, “well that company officer is no longer with us.” And there these “Top Flite” Spaldings, based on Nocona’s BM76 designs sat in their boxes. (oh, by the way Spalding had ordered these primarily to sell into Japan where USA made gloves were popular). Over the next 12 months we helped sell these gloves off and they still appear on eBay on occasion.
This is the sort of tales I’ve entered in my new book. Anyone interested in ordering one of these unique glove company histories, may contact me at email@example.com
Coming up next: The “Sports Illustrated” Explosion. . . you wouldn’t believe.
John Graham and I took a trip out to Rob’s new house yesterday. It’s an absolutely beautiful home and Rob and his wife Michelle are still putting it together. Here’s a pic of Rob, John and I. You should have seen him take down a mannequin, prop it up ever so carefully, put the camera on it’s head, aim, set the timer and run over for the shot. He’s truly a master photographer.
Rob got even more room to spread out his extensive collection. His displays are incredible. The upstairs landing where he took the pic is one of the most beautiful and tastefully done displays I have ever seen. This is the landing.
Michelle is a super cool wife. She’s a trooper. Here are some of the other display pics from virtually every room in the house.
On another note, Rob got in a pretty terrible car accident last week. He got hit by a big rig who had fried its brakes coming down a hill apparently. When Rob was able to get off to the side up the road a bit and get out of his car to gain his composure, the same truck with no brakes hit him again and almost killed him. Pretty scary. He’s a bit banged up and even turned down a game of catch, which isn’t like him. Glad you are doing O.K. bud. Get better soon.
John, always good seeing you.
This is why glove collecting is fun. The following article appeared in the Sunday edition of the Missoulian. It’s a nice piece about a glove and its link to the past. It’s also about a modest guy with an incredible collection who loves and respects the game and that’s cool. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Fortune Small Business featured a glove article in the November, 2009 issue entitled Catching a Break about Vinci gloves. Story featured in the Library. Sorry there is no web link.
We missed you all at the first annual Montana Glove Get-Together. I went out to see Mike Ellis again and finally met BJ Ayers. We met up at BJ’s house and were overwhelmed by his incredible collection. That’s Mike on the left, BJ in the middle and me on the right. His son took the pic. BJ had a ton of great gloves and other stuff to look at. We had a great time.
Mike and I stayed up til almost 3:00 in the morning both nights. I told him I wanted to get snowed in down in his basement. I could stay down there forever and do research.
Lots of display pics coming. Check out that Gallery to see BJ’s and Mike’s latest displays.
So far, so good guys. Start filling out your profiles and keep your traders current. I have already heard of two trades so far. That’s cool, which means it’s working. Is there any other information you want to capture or know about each other? We can make more information fields if we want.
If anyone needs any help filling out their profiles or putting up their traders, let me know and I’ll be happy to help. The Collector’s Corner will be a lot more fun if everyone gets involved.
Excerpt from my interview with Joe.
Give us yours and your dad’s background.
I have been a sports fan ever since I was born. My dad worked for the NCAA for awhile when I was really young and then became the beat writer for the Dodgers, Angels and Rams for local Los Angeles area newspapers and later became the sports editor. I went to a lot of Dodger games as a kid and got to know most of the players personally from those ’76-’78 teams. We went on road trips with them and got to be around them socially. This made a life-long impression on a young kid. As I got older I read a ton of books and studied the old game. That’s where my true love lies these days. Baseball is who I am.
When did you buy your first glove-circumstances?
I was a card collector along with my dad and younger brother all through my youth. I pretty much stopped collecting actively in the late 1980’s when I started college. My girlfriend bought me a teens Spalding buckle web, buckle back catchers mitt and a 1940’s splitfinger Arrow Brand softball glove for Christmas in 1993 or ’94 I think. What the heck are these I thought? After I put them on, I was hooked. Of course I proposed to this woman and we got married in December, 1995. She created a monster. It was all her fault.
What’s your favorite glove(s)?
Why don’t you ask me which one of my kids I like best? Tough question as I’m pretty sentimental about many of my gloves. I’ll always love the two Jenn got for me. I especially like my Wapiti Elk Decker Patent sewn palm catchers mitt because I found that in an antique store in Cooperstown on my first trip there. I love my Gehrig because that’s the only really good glove I found on the hunt. I found it at a flea market at 10:30 after all the dealers and collectors had passed on it for about five hours. It was a beater. I bought it for $15, took it home, relaced it, cleaned it and uncovered the block and facsimile signatures of Gehrig. I used up my one bit of good luck on that one. Another one I will never part with is my burgundy webless crescent. It was way out of my league pricewise at a point when I really couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on a glove but it is just about perfect. It taught me that you really can’t overspend on quality for a glove you will keep forever. I love gloves more for how I obtained them or the story involved, more than the actual model of a glove itself. My wife has since bought me other gloves. She is a “keeper”.
Do you try and play catch with any? Always put your hand inside your new glove?
I keep gloves in my office. I walk around half the day throwing a ball into a glove while on the phone. I guess it’s how I deal with the stress of the day. It makes me feel more comfortable. Whenever someone comes in my office and sees them, they always put them on and we play catch in the front part of the office where we have more room. I have this long hallway where we can really throw harder and since we usually use 1” webs, we have dinged up a lot of walls at the office playing catch. I do love the feel of a great glove. I’m not a total lining guy though. I go more for the certain model and eye appeal. A good lining is just a bonus but it will never stop me from buying a glove I like otherwise.
Friends you have made in the hobby??????
I have made so many great friends in this hobby. I know it sounds cliché that glove collectors are a different breed, a different animal so to speak, but I totally agree. There are a lot of genuinely great guys in this hobby (and a few exceptions). I love the fact that everyone collects something different. I love the fact that people are trading all over the place. Rob Mucha, glovecrazy, is my closest glove buddy and we live near each other. We have a healthy, competitive rivalry going and we try to get together at least once a month, to compare finds or clean each other’s gloves. In the past, I have cleaned his white ones and he has cleaned my extra dirty ones that I don’t have the energy for. We occasionally pull off a big blockbuster trade that is years in the making. Mike Ellis is another great friend to whom I will always be grateful. He generously gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and I’ll never forget it. I probably wouldn’t have built my website if it weren’t for him. I have made a lot of good friends in this hobby. You know who you are guys.
A year or so ago Mike Ellis and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Missoula, MT eating burgers and reflecting on our epic glove deal that took place a year earlier. I went back for more punishment on round two (as if 452 gloves wasn’t enough) when he gave me the idea to make the site more personal and interactive. The vision was originally all his. My brilliant webguy and friend Karl took all of our ideas along with those of others like Jerry Ficchi and Brett Lowman and brought all of these ideas to life. You would not believe the amount of programming and code he had to hack to pull this off. It has been a long and painstaking process. The Collector’s Corner we have been talking about for over a year is finally here.
I envisioned a place where we could hang out and interact like the Forum but I wanted to take it one step further. Since some of us correspond via web meetings, video chats and instant messaging, we can now make the glove collector network even closer yet. Nowadays, we can share screens and mouse pointers all while looking at each other in real time and it has made corresponding and communicating even easier and more fun. Technology scares the hell out of some people but it can be pretty cool. Embrace it.
My main vision for the Collector’s Corner was to get us closer as a community – to create new friendships. Secondly, I wanted to have a place where people could entice the rest of us with a few traders. Simple as that. Let’s learn a little bit about each other, spark up some new relationships and let’s do some tradin’!
Hope you enjoy the new site.