Evolution of the Fielder’s Glove
The earliest fielders’ gloves first used in the late 1880s were no more than leatherwork gloves used by common laborers. By the 1890s, Spalding began to manufacture a fielder’s workman’s type glove specifically for baseball use.
Fielders’ gloves improved steadily from the turn of the century. The first improvement came with a leather piece sewn between the thumb and the index finger as the earliest web.
Rawlings introduced a larger pattern 11’’ glove, “Bill Doak Model” in the ‘20s. Note that the web was designed to incorporate a lace to let the fielder adjust the size and configuration of the web as desired.
In the ‘30s, Goldsmith introduced the tunnel web, which enlarged the web area.
In the late 1920s, the Kennedy Brothers (KenWel) of Gloversville, New York, introduced an innovation in laces that tied the fingers together. It wasn't commonly applied to all gloves, but became standard in the 1950s.
Lonny Frey, a slick fielding major league second baseman who played for the Reds championship team of the ‘30s and ‘40s, worked with the Rawlings designers to develop a solid web between the thumb and index finger, which ushered in a new era in glove design.
Interestingly, between innings fielders would leave their gloves on the playing field where they were in the field of play. If a ball hit a glove laying there, the play would continue. Post World War II glove design became revolutionary. Designs adapted, which included longer fingers, deeper pockets and larger webs. Most glove designs that were manufactured added lacing between the fingers and became the standard of the industry. As a result, of a new larger patterned glove, players used the glove in a new way. Previously, all players learned and practiced using two hands to catch, now due to the bigger webs and deeper pockets, fielders could snatch the ball with one hand. As a result, in 1948, Rawlings introduced the “Playmaker,” which incorporated an old idea that had moderate success in the ‘30s with the Drayper & Maynard “Rube” Lutzke G75 Model.
Like the Lutzke model, The Playmaker design incorporated the third and forth fingers together into a single digit and streamlined the pattern and added a larger web. The design concept is very practical and functional in that a fielder’s third finger has little closing strength and combined with the forth finger adds greater strength and control. The Playmaker had five to six years of great success as a production model for The Rawlings Company.
The Wilson Co. countered with their own similar version called “The Ball Hawk.” Wilson’s design not only combined the third and forth fingers, but combined the index and second fingers as well into a single digit. With these two models, players relied on the web more than with previous designs. Everything would change dramatically in 1957 when The Wilson Co.
introduced the A2000 to the market.
The new glove had a lace configuration in the palm that created a pronounced break in the heel. The break, which created a natural crease in the glove, enabled the glove to fold completely around the ball—allowing the fielder to snatch catch a ball with one hand easier than any design up until then. The A2000 has become the standard for glove design to this day.