Just in Case the Yankees Need Someone

Waxing Poetic About My Lifetime Ball Glove

This isn't exactly a story about a right proper project on 173, but this year that doesn't seem to be much of a surprise.  And even though it isn't a project for the house, it's a small project in the house, and one of those projects that conjures days of yore - cleaning my baseball glove.  After all, the season's over, so time to get it ready for winter!

So old I can't remember when I got it!

I've had this glove a long, long time, so long that I can't even remember when I got it.  I think it must have been from the late '70s or early 80's, and it was either a birthday or Christmas gift from my folks.  Yep - that old.  I remember the summer of '85, living in Richmond, and I had already replaced most of the stringing in the glove.  I had zero money back then so I had to re-sew the glove with shoestring:

The Rawlings HFG Model

About the time I got my glove, RawlingsWilson and Spalding seemed to be the top names in baseball gloves.  I know this because I studiously admired the gloves used by the big leaguers in their baseball cards, in Baseball Digest, and The Sporting News, both of which I pored over at the school library by the (seeming) hour.  My glove is an HFG model, which means nothing to me, and is a Reggie Jackson signature model.  

Mr. October - a Hate/Love Relationship

I can tell you this - when I was a kid I couldn't stand Reggie Jackson.  After all, he was a superstar on the Oakland A's, the team that broke my 9 year old heart when they beat the Mets in the '73 World Series.  But, as most of the world knows (because I tell this all the time) after the '74 season, the Mets themselves broke my heart by trading my baseball hero - Duffy Dyer.  So when Reggie became Mr. October with my new favorite team, the Yankees, my distaste for Reggie abated, making my Rawlings glove completely acceptable!  Unfortunately, the "signature" is almost completely gone now, worn away by decades of baseball and softball, but you can kind of make it out in the pocket still:

Some of my favorite baseball books from my youth
∙ Nice Guys Finish Last by Leo Durocher
∙ The Gilded Age of Sport by Herbert Warren Wind
∙ The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
∙ Babe Ruth by Tom Meany
And check out MLB's list of the all-time best baseball books

A love for shining

Who knows when it started...probably when Dad first taught me how to shine my shoes for church.  I can't picture that day, but certainly it was in the kitchen, and likely Kiwi brand polish.  I say it was in the kitchen because I used to spread a newspaper out on the table and shine my cleats for the next day's football game in Small Fry and High School.  I probably did it for baseball too, but I don't specifically remember that.  Nonetheless, most of my life I've been shining shoes, be it for sports, the military or work, I have always had a love for the process.  The satisfaction of making slightly worn leather look new again, the rich smell of Kiwi polish, the feel of the horsehair brush - I still have the same brush I bought at the PX on day 2 of Boot Camp.  That thing's been around the world with me!  By the way - here's my '75 Little League Champions picture that was in the paper.  Dad was the coach and that's me in the catcher's gear - I thought that was the height of cool!

And while I don't specifically remember shining my baseball spikes, I do remember conditioning my glove.  When I first got it, Dad tied a baseball in the pocket and, while I know this is gonna sound goofy as all get out, I slept with that glove when I first got it!  It was also Dad that taught me the art of conditioning my glove.  When it was new, we'd wipe some long-forgotten oil on it.  I doubt it was glove oil, but whatever he used on his, we used on mine.  Part of me thinks it might have been olive oil, who knows.  But conditioning that glove was a late fall and early spring routine.  Saddened to rub that oil into the leather in late fall, knowing it would be months before another baseball game would be played, and ecstatic as a schoolboy in spring - wait, I was a schoolboy!

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. - Rogers Hornsby

How they want you to care for your glove

Here's how the baseball glove makers want you to take care of your glove:
  • Remove excess dirt and debris from your fielding glove by gently using a brush or piece of cloth
  • Use a damp cloth or sponge to apply a small amount of glove leather cleaner; Lexol leather cleaner is good. Wipe the entire glove with it.
  • Don't spit on your glove, this will break down the leather
  • Use conditioner to moisturize the glove. You want to apply the conditioner lightly and work it into the glove. Make sure not to use too much, as it could build up over time. This will weigh the glove down and will actually become a home for dirt and debris to gather as well. 
  • While conditioning, be sure to get between the fingers and on the inside as much as possible. This will help prevent the leather from deteriorating. 
  • Do not use leather products made for shoes.
I won't even give attribution to that one!  Seriously?  

Mentions of Baseball at 173
∙ Trophies on the bookcase
∙ Fretting over clouds in the sky
∙ Duffy Dyer and the trouble spot
∙ Halcyon Days
Check out 173's experimental Baseball page

How you should really care for your glove

I don't know about yours, but my glove was made and given to me to be used, baked by the sun, pounded with 20 to 90 mile-per hour tosses and screaming line drives, chewed on in strategy meetings, thrown to the ground in disgust and tossed in the air in victory.  If the grass was wet, it was a seat, and sometimes at lunch, the pocket was the perfect size to fit a couple hot dogs.  Don't spit in your glove they say.  Well, what else do you do when all eyes are on you after you've booted a grounder?  My glove was cared for to the point that when all the padding in the pocket was worn to nothing, I simply started using a piece of sponge in my palm to soften the blows.  Yeah - my glove was for using - and it was!  THIS is how you care for a glove!  Oh, and at the end of the season, wipe it down, rub in some shoe conditioner or polish (I recommend Kiwi brand, but only because it's all I've ever used, and if anyone from Kiwi is reading - see what I did there? hint hint!), give it a massage with a good horsehair brush, and wait anxiously 'til spring!  

Just in case

So.  Here we are.  The ol' glove's been treated and is ready for its long winter's nap.  I haven't actually played in a game in maybe 10 years.  Torn rotator cuffs (yes plural) and a lifetime of sports injuries, including some brutal seasons as the loose-head prop for probably the most physical team in Europe at the time, and injuries sustained in the natural course of being a soldier have taken their toll.  The last game I played in, I cut off a throw from right field, spun and fired to third to get the runner.  But - it didn't quite work that way.  When I "fired" to third, the ball went all of about 30 feet and fell to the ground like the slowest duck in the marsh.  The only "fire" happening was in my right shoulder, the pain so intense I nearly took a knee (instead I just hoped to get through the inning without the ball coming to me).  And that was that.  I still take practice swings with my air bat, and I keep the old Rawlings leather supple because hey - ya never know when the phone might ring cuz the Yankees need someone!

One more word

Before I close this post, I want to include the very first poem I remember memorizing.  It's full of expectation, anticipation, disappointment and grief.  To this day, and I mean right now, the last stanza makes me a little misty:

Stay safe out there!
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