Baseball is a sport that has been around for over two hundred years. The very first game is different from the game we know today. In fact, very little equipment was used, and the first few pieces have been broken or lost in time. It is this scarcity that makes antique baseball gloves such collector's items.
The History of Baseball Gloves
The first baseball gloves were used in the 1870's. Prior to this, no gloves were used and balls were caught with bare hands. The first glove users were often called names, and thought to be less manly than the rest. By the 1890's, however, it was normal for players to wear gloves.
Though some say that the first gloves were designed so a player could knock the ball onto the ground, for the most part, gloves were made to protect the hands. They did this by providing a cushion for catching the ball. Early gloves were plain leather gloves without any fingertips, which designers claimed helped the players get the same control they would have as when they were playing barehanded.
Unlike baseball gloves, catcher's mitts were not introduced for some time. It is believed that catchers continued to use their hands for some time, until the pancake or pillow glove was introduced around 1890. At first, officials did not want catchers to use gloves because they feared for the safety of the batter (pitchers can throw harder if the catcher is wearing a glove.) Eventually, catchers needed to wear gloves because pitchers really began to throw harder and harder pitches. This was a development which came in the 1880's, which is when over-hand pitching was introduced to the game. By the 1890's, catchers were using mitts. To make it “fair”, as officials were still concerned about the batters, the distance between the mound and home plate was moved back 5 feet and 6 inches. Today, it remains at this position.
Collecting Antique Gloves
At present, collecting antique gloves and mitts requires you collect gloves made before 1910. It also requires that you spend a lot of money for your collection because of how rare they are. It is almost impossible to find an 1870's glove. 1880's gloves, which are have their fingertips cut off are also extremely rare. Those from this time period (1880) that have fingertips are quite rare as well, and there are actually less than 5 that have been found. 1890's gloves are also rare, but are not as scarce as fingertipped 1880's gloves. Those made in the latter half of the decade, known as “workman's” gloves are characterized by its crescent padding.
If you think you have antique baseball gloves, be sure to get it appraised by experts. Most antique gloves were passed down in families and are “game-used” gloves. This means that the leather tends to be weathered and of darker color that today's current gloves. You can also do research online and look at pictures of old gloves to compare yours to.