Back in the mid-19th century, baseball players fielded balls with their bare hands, which caused many bruises and sprains to their hands and fingers. Although there wasn’t a rule against wearing a glove, no one did. This was a game for manly men, not weaklings. But in 1875, New Haven first baseman Charles Waite took to the field wearing a flesh-colored work glove on his battered catching hand, hoping that no one would notice. They did, of course, and the fans let him hear what they thought about his glove. But despite the initial ridicule, Waite persevered, and baseball gloves slowly caught on. By the mid-1890s, it was normal for players to wear a glove while in the field.
Keeping an eye on the ball:
- The year after Waite’s glove made its debut, Chicago White Stockings pitcher Albert Spalding started the sporting goods company Spalding. A black leather glove was among the company's first products.
- Early mitts, with or without fingers, weren’t ideal for catching balls. Fielders often used them to swat at a line drive or a hot grounder, then would pick up the ball and throw the runner out.
- In 1920, pitcher Bill Doak came up with a design more like today’s glove, with padding and webbing. He sold the patent to Rawlings, which went on to be a major manufacturer of baseball gloves.