Glove Story

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By saving countless fingers from disfigurement and sparing ballplayers the pain of permanent bruises, gloves made baseball a much more humane sport. Still, there were those who preferred the old days when rugged athletes had flaunted their gnarled digits as a badge of honor. As late as 1908 the editor and publisher of the baseball journal Sporting Life proposed banning gloves for outfielders. A year earlier Harry Ellard—a descendant of the organizer of baseball’s first openly professional club, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings—had poetically imagined an old-timer’s reminiscing about the days before the advent of gloves (and that other effete innovation, the catcher’s mask): “We used no mattress on our hands, / No cage upon our face; / We stood right up and caught the ball / With courage and with grace.”