Sports Illustrated June 1991 by Joe Phillips

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.

2 comments to Sports Illustrated June 1991 by Joe Phillips

  • TGC

    Next post I’ll pursue the 1990s and glove collecting interests and pursuits of that era. Taking a look at “Sports Collectors Digest” (Carmi Brandis glove column), various other publications, dealer mailing lists, the TGC newsletters, flea markets, small and large, antique shows, national sports collecting shows, etc. Prior to the entry of ebay and the internet. JP-TGC

  • JD

    Joe, thanks for another enjoyable and informative post. I always love to learn as much as I can. It’s fascinating how the hobby began as well as the stories involved and no one can tell them quite like you.

    JD

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