Hobby Perspective by Joe Phillips

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 Bresnahan Ken Wel Catchers Mitt Front

Roger Bresnahan Ken Wel Catchers Mitt Back

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.

 Joe PhillipsRawlings Glove Display


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