I’m missing baseball. Part of the renewal of Spring, for me anyway, is the thought that hope springs eternal, that I no longer have to wait until next year because it is next year, and that the ivy in Wrigley Field will soon be green.
I’ve found many socially distant’d folks are feeling similarly to me as I see on social media the request to post a baseball photo with no explanation. But as happened with the list of bands you’ve seen from A-Z post, this is leading me to another writing prompt. So how about some pictures of some personal baseball artifacts with some explanation.
I think I’ll stick to “first gloves” here, though I could provide you the lineage of my fielding and catcher’s gloves, as well as my bats, from my first to my last if needed. Unfortunately with the bats, there were some wooden ones that did not make it, and some old aluminum ones that I would bet are still in my parent’s garage (or may have been sold in garage sales some time ago).
As I’ve been casting my thoughts back, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many happy memories I have related to baseball in general and these things in particular. I was blessed to have a Dad who played uncountable, endless games of catch with me, as well as threw uncountable, endless batting practice to me – just as often out of baseball season as in baseball season. That said, I’ll do my best to keep this from getting sappy. Onward, then.
MY FIRST FIELDER’S GLOVE
My real first glove was most likely one of my Dad’s or my older brother’s hand-me-downs. I remember it being a light tan Rawlings, and I’m pretty sure it was not an autographed model. I didn’t like how it was broken in, and it was stiff. I’m guessing we weren’t yet familiar with glove oil and/or the use of shaving cream to soften up and condition a glove at that point in time.
I remember my Dad had this great Mizuno glove he used when he played in a softball league that was soft, flexible and broken in perfectly at the hinge. It was almost evenly balanced from one side to the other, right down the middle of the palm, which made it great for softball (or the outfield). I wanted something like that. I guess I had no intention of playing middle infield from the start.
Did I mention I was 7 when I got my first glove? Yes, I was 7, which means the above emanates from pre-7 year old memories. Baseball is a powerful thing, and one’s preferences for how a glove should be broken in were set in place very early on.
The first glove that was specifically mine was a Wilson Ron Guidry model. I’m right handed, so why Wilson made this model with the left handed Louisiana Lightning’s name in it, I’m not sure. I got this glove for Christmas when I was 7 years old. It was the Christmas before my first season of organized baseball, what was called Pee Wee League in my hometown of Robinson, IL. I did my best to break it in like Dad’s glove.
I used it until I was 12 I think, my last year of Little League. By the time I got a new glove, my Ron Guidry Wilson had one thin strip of leather covering my palm. I had literally worn a hole on the inside of the glove.
As I said, I won’t go into details on the full lineage of my glove’s, but you should know the next fielder’s glove I got was a bust, don’t even want to discuss it. But then I found a black Franklin glove at McMillan’s Sporting Goods in Terre Haute, IN. I think I was 14. You will be happy to know I was able to break that one in almost exactly like my Dad’s Mizuno.
MY FIRST CATCHER’S GLOVE
In Robinson, IL where I grew up, “back in my day” organized baseball started at the age of 7. Right from the start, I knew I wanted to be a catcher. This was 1982, a year before Johnny Bench retired. I thought Johnny Bench was THE best catcher ever (I would still start him on my all-time team, and most likely hit him in the 4 or 5 hole – a topic for another day), so I wanted to wear #5 and be Johnny Bench (In later years and due to liking Mike Singletary in football, I preferred #50 as it nodded to Johnny Bench as well).
A short aside to ensure it is clear that my Cubs’ roots run deep. That is meant as no disrespect to Jody Davis. While I do firmly believe Harry Caray was right, that Jody Davis was, indeed, “Catcher without a fear”, he was no Johnny Bench. And I never came across a signed Jody Davis model catcher’s glove. At least not in Tresslers department store in Robinson, IL in the early ’80s. Back to the nub of it.
I got this beauty – a Rawlings Johnny Bench model – for Christmas. It traveled with me through two years of pre-Little League, Little League, Babe Ruth, JV and varsity high school baseball. All told, I think it was a good 10 years. The two piece pocket proved a challenge as I got older and guys I caught could bring some good heat. I can’t count the times it was broken or stretched to the point of a ball coming through and hitting me in the mask. I bought another catcher’s glove when I was 15 or 16 because of this (it was a Mizuno as I always wanted one since my Dad had that one I mentioned before), but the Johnny Bench model stayed in my bag and would often make appearances in game play until my last game as a high school senior.