The Baseball Observer Feb 2015 vol 1 - Page 16

There were no rules against using a glove in the early days of baseball - it just wasn’t “manly”. Around the 1860’s a few players started using work gloves for padding. Made of heavy cloth or leather with the fingers cut down as to keep the feel of the ball. It’s believed that some catchers used them first but no one can pin point who was the first in those early years. A Cincinnati Red Stockings catcher was one of the first thought to have worn a buckskin glove in 1870 to protect his hand from a previous injury. In 1875 a St. Louis outfielder/ first baseman was the first “confirmed” player to officially wear a glove. By 1890, as more injuries occurred, the use of a glove became more accepted. In 1895, the National League and American Association of Baseball Clubs felt they had to address the glove situation and wrote the following restrictions: “The catcher and the first baseman are permitted to wear a glove or mitt of any size, shape or weight. All other players are restricted to the use of a glove or mitt weighing not over ten ounces, and measuring in circumference around the palm of the hand not over fourteen inches” So padding was the first to come. It wasn’t until 1920 when a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher came up with the gloves “pocket”. He suggested to the use straps between the first finger and thumb and inner lace them (see above) allowing more distance between the two – creating what we know as the pocket. The 1950’s saw even more innovations to the glove making it look more similar to what we see today. Things like webbing, broader pockets and u-shaped heels. One thing that has stayed pretty much the same since the 1930’s and that’s the tanning process. The issue manufactures are having in present time is that the cattle (for leather) are going to slaughter at younger age so their skins have to be stretched more and that effects the integrity of the fibers. Therefore the durability decreases. So now you see buffalo and kangaroo being used also. More change coming? It has been said there is a glove manufacturer currently looking into combining leather and Kevlar (the stuff bulletproof vests are made of…)