Thursday, April 14, 2011

When Boy Meets 1st Mitt, It’s A True Glove Story

Baseball is as much a game of history as it is of skill. That's why I'm putting Thing 2’s recently retired first mitt in our safe deposit box.

first baseball mitt baseball gloveNot that I think Cooperstown will come calling for it. The boy has a fairly live pitching arm for a third grader, but in our Wiffle ball matches he's already displaying serious issues hitting the hard inside breaking stuff and the 23-foot-high moon ball.

I want to lock up his mitt for a selfish reason: I wish I still had my first ball glove.

That long-gone relic had been given to me the spring I turned 7. My mom passed it to me from a friend whose own child had graduated from wanting to learn to turn the perfect double play to wanting to teach how to turn the perfect pirouette.

Yes, my first mitt was a hand-me-down from a ballet teacher.

Specifically, my sister's ballet teacher.

I had recently followed the light to the Church of Baseball so this was quite the baptismal gift. I accepted it without hesitation, too excited to worry that the cowhide might be a carrier of girl cooties. As a quick study of the game, I was prepared should anyone peer under the wrist strap to discover the name of my glove's original owner. I would say that if Shoeless Joe Jackson could hit .400 with a bat named "Black Betsy" then I could win a Gold Glove with a mitt called "Sheila W."

Most people wouldn't bother with my mitt anyway. The lining of the ring finger turned slightly inside out, causing borrowers to complain about the awkward fit. To me, though, it felt just fine.

We spent many hours together that year. Catching sky-scraping flies my dad threw until his shoulder ached. Snaring imaginary line drives as I lay on the playroom floor listening to Bob Murphy describe the play of another pitiful Mets team. Snagging tennis balls off the wall in my parent’s basement, which today still bears a strike zone I fashioned from masking tape.

Spring turned to summer, summer to autumn. The air turned crisp and others turned to football, but I stayed in my backyard, single-handedly catching all 27 outs to win another imaginary World Series until I was called in for lunch. I dropped my mitt next to the tree serving as the Green Monster and went inside.

That was the last I saw of it.

When I returned 20 or 30 minutes later, ball and glove had vanished.

Since we lived in a town where zoning and woods hamper most contact with civilization, my first thought that desperados, hell bent for third-hand leather, rode though and swiped it while I downed a grilled cheese didn't register. My parents concluded that a never-before- and never-since-seen dog wandered through and took it home as a chew toy. As I grew older, I started suspecting convenient scapegoating to counter an early request I made to Santa for a puppy.

Instead, for Christmas I received another glove and it was good, serving me through Tiny League and my first year in Little League. That one is gone, too, though I suspect it fell as a silent and unmourned victim during a zealous spring cleaning.

Also gone are the baseballs from my only two home runs in organized ball and the one from the night I went 5-for-5 with the game-winning RBI single in a 13-year-old All-Star game. Someone broke into my parents' house several years ago and stole those, along with some of my mom’s costume jewelry, and some other odd items of relatively little value.

Maybe it was not someone. Maybe it was something.

Maybe the same mysterious hellhound who visited our backyard years before made a return visit. Who knows? I just hope those old baseballs and memories eventually found their way to the comforting leather pocket of my old reliable Sheila W.

21 comments:

  1. You've officially convinced me not to sell, donate, or give to charity my youngest son's first official ball glove. He started Little League a couple weeks ago, and we quickly had to graduate to a larger glove after hoping we could use the small one he used last year for Y ball, the first time he'd ever played baseball, and because I have a crazy need to 'replace on/toss on,' I was thinking of giving it to the glove drive the league's having this weekend...but deep down, I knew I'd regret it, and this cemented it.

    I am going to get rid of some of the 19 basketballs we have, though, dammit!

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  2. I, of course, love this post.

    My first real glove was a Richie Zisk model (really?), that I could never get broken in properly. So I always used my older brother's Tom Seaver glove that fit...well, like a glove. I loved that glove, even though it bore the name of a guy from the Mets. But it was Tom friggin Seaver. All was excused.

    Weirdly enough, I ran into Tom Seaver about 8 years ago. He must have been doing a signing at a local mall and it had recently ended. So he was just sitting there at an empty table, waiting for someone. I walked by, saw him and and said "Hey...you're Tom Seaver". He smiled and said "Yeah, I am". I shook his hand, he asked me if I wanted an autograph. I politely declined and told him I used a Tom Seaver model mitt when I was a kid. He laughed, and asked if I was a Mets fan. I said no...I hated the Mets. And he laughed again. Then we both went on our way.

    Hadn't thought about that mitt in years. Thanks.

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  3. Sweet and thought provoking. Especially for a mom that is frantically spring cleaning. I will put more thought into what I rid this season. Thanks for posting.

    Kimberly

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  4. Okay, at first I was going to say "I don't get it!" What is it with guys and their glory day relics? (Hubby has his first track shoes in our basement.) No woman keeps a worn out reminder of some event that happened 30 years ago. Move on.

    And then I remembered Eeyore..... My mom & I sewed him from a pattern (pre-Disney) one summer when I was 10. Brown fuzzy body, black yarn mane and a coat button tail. It has had to be re-stuffed twice. Its tail fixed multiple times. Eeyore was with me through adolescence, Penn State, job interviews and multiple moves. Now, he is in my daughters' room.

    I completely "get it" - Thanks!

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  5. This was sheer poetry and brings back so many great memories. I played 1st in Jr. HS. I remember the coach telling the catcher to throw the ball at my ugly face then I'd be sure to catch the damn thing. I learned to cover that ball quickly so it didn't bounce off my major league glove. Broke my right pinkie doing it and never shed a tear. I have always been tougher'n nails.

    I was a fan long ago, '67 Red Sox Impossible Dream Team. Never quite recovered from that long ago near glory.

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  6. Hubs had a beauty of a mitt, perfect fit, perfectly broken in, AND signed by Darrell Evans of the Tigers in 84, the year he was in the running for the HR championship. He went to a church picnic, and someone stole it.

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  7. Brings back a lot of memories for me... I still have my first Dale Murphy autographed glove. I remember when my mom and I restitched it, of course the new laces were the wrong color. I had an autograph from old Yankee great Vic Raschi in it but unfortunately that has faded but the memories are ad vibrant as ever. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I had 4 older brothers and 3 younger brothers. Each year my oldest brother got a new glove and we all just handed ours down to the next.

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  9. Sounds like a used little kid glove black market scheme to me. THey probably sell them for thousands of dollars because if you unlace them just right, you can get the dreams out.

    Nice post.

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  10. Awww - I hope some kid stole your glove and it kept getting stolen over the years, used by countless children the world over.
    Um, that's weird, I guess.
    Anyway, I try to save some things from Gilda's childhood, too.
    I still wish I had my beloved Teddy bear, Jo -Jo - who really was nothing but stuffing by the time we moved.

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  11. FADKOG: Wait unit I get into the whole sacred ritual of breaking a glove in! Neatsfoot oil. Shaving cream. Stuffing it under your mattress and sleeping on it. It's a beautiful thing.

    BEEARL - You're welcome. And lucky. Tom can be a dick to fans at time. However, as a reporter, I had to go to his house once and I interviewed his wife, Nancy. She seemed interested in setting me up with her daughter. Opportunity missed.

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  12. GOODNESS: PLEASE, be cautious!

    UNMITIGATED: That, seriously, nearly got me misty. Effin' holy rollers!

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  13. MOM O 2 - You don't have any dried out roses from prom dates stuck in the pages of a Keats poetry book, anywhere?

    SYBIL - Jo-Jo? Ow - don't get me started on Roy, the stuffed bunny I had as a kid.

    WILLIAM: Think of all the pain of breaking in a new mitt you were saved. And I'm sorry about that.

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  14. My first glove was my dad's old glove and had a Minnie Minoso replica signature in it. My first of my own was a Kirby Puckett model. Both are still at my parents' house.

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  15. Wow, your experience sounds familiar to mine. I also had an awesome night in a 13 year old all star league game. I led off with a trippel, went 4 for 4 with a couple of swipes and got my name in the paper. Ahhh, memories.

    I don't have my first mit, but I still have and use the one I won from selling the most candy bars in little league.

    Here, I talk a bit about it: http://liayf.blogspot.com/2010/07/catch-42.html

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  16. Putting the first glove in a box TONIGHT.

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  17. Great tale of a memorable acquisition. Popped over from a link of a link. Glad I did. Thanks for the memories (they came flooding back).

    Jason
    The Cheek Daddy

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  18. The interest rates of unsecured loans are different from loan companies. Therefore it is a good idea that you search far and wide for the best rates online. The benefits of online loans is that you do not have to deal with dealing service which means that you can get your loan within an hour or within 24 hours. Another benefit is that you do not need any paperwork and last but not least you do not need to give security for the loan amount

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  19. What a great story. I wish I'd saved my softball mitt. We had some good times.

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  20. I loved reading this. I married into a baseball family and although I don't fully understand it, I respect it.

    I often think about the Ken Burns baseball special when he said that baseball stories often start with "my dad and I-"

    And now I'll think of your post too. So thank you for that.

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