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Gloves in the Field PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, May 21 2014 08:50
Little known fact: Baseball outfielders, when the inning was over, used to leave their gloves in the field! 

In my early years I regarded this as normal. That’s when my father would take me to games played by the Red Sox and the Boston Bees.

(Already you may be wondering who the Bees were.  They were the National League team in Boston, given that name between 1935 and 1940.             Then the team became Braves, as they had been since 1917. In 1953, they moved to Milwaukee before settling in Atlanta.)

Leaving gloves in the outfield now probably seems strange to the few fans who have ever heard of the practice.  But no one thought it strange when I was a boy.

The only reason I can imagine for changing the practice was that gloves might be hit by the ball. However, that seems never to have happened. Something else must have brought about the change.

In his charming memoir, Let Me Finish, the then octogenarian Roger Angell mentioned the glove change.  But even he, a master of baseball lore, failed to show any clear knowledge of why gloves started getting carried back to the dugout.

My reason for mentioning such an inconsequential change is my abiding interest in then and now.  I continue to be fascinated by the way things, however trivial and forgettable, have changed over the years.

And how we easily forget changes even when they carry much more import.  If you have a memory as weak as mine, you often find yourself unable to remember what a long-standing familiar building looked like before it was demolished in favor of another one. 

However, I do retain some memory of gloves in the field.  But I remember neither the time of changing the practice nor the way baseball officials must have announced the between-the-innings disappearance of fielders’ mitts.

Of course, It’s much more important to know that gloves were considerably smaller in the old days than they are now. Surely the use of the larger ones must improve the fielding averages of today’s players.

Were I to whip out an iPhone, I would probably be immediately informed about all these things . However, as some of my readers seem to agree, the facile use of this technology can take away the fun in other forms of searching.

Even those of us who continued playing ball in our late decades – seventies and eighties - were fussy about our gloves. I can still feel exhilaration at the way my first-baseman’s mitt handled a hot ground ball, enabling me to make an unexpected putout.

The pros have an axiom: “the legs go first.” That was my fate when one of my knees became arthritic enough to ruin the dream of continuing my softball career into my nineties.

Everything changes.  That’s one of the lessons of later life. 

To expect things to remain unmoved is a sure guarantee of disappointment. Ability to change surely ranks as one of the triumphs of old age.

Of course, some change is unwelcome.  I think each day about the sufferings of huge numbers of people around the world because of political change. Why must they undergo such misery?

At this point in history our own country cries out for changes that will benefit the poor and deprived.  I long for action from Congress and the Supreme Court to mitigate the disparity that marks the lives of so many people in our country.

For me, one of the disappointments of later life continues to be the failure of leaders and voters to focus on the needy instead of catering to the most powerful campaign contributors.