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By May 31, 2013 3 Comments

This morning, Woot’s got a sale on baseball gloves, not just any gloves–Rawlings gloves.  I will not, again, in my life, have need of one, but I’m sorely tempted to pick one anyway if for no other reason than that longhand trademark spells out the letters of my own first love.

I started sometime around sixth grade and then played organized baseball/softball/slo-pitch until I was 55, which is to say for most of my life.  Still, I have no doubt the sum total of all those years on the basepaths inch up short to the endless tally of hours we spent as kids playing ball on our own on the schoolyard across the street or in the parking lot of First Reformed.  After school, we played nightly.  Come summer, we’d play almost every day, limited only by how many kids showed up–four on four, pitcher’s hands, knock up–a dozen games or more created by kids, nary an adult in sight.

Last week I walked the streets of my hometown again and found a soccer field where once there were a pair of ball diamonds.  Those netted goals stood where homemade backstops, hearty steel things pockmarked with spot welds and hung with rugged fencing, once looked over a couple of dusty, baseless diamonds we called home. Soccer seemed somehow foreign intervention, or downright sacrilege.

But it was that Rawlings signature that brought me back this morning. I don’t doubt some Dominie might call what I felt for that trademark a deadly sin, so unconditionally did I love it.  I bought an Eddie Matthews signature Rawlings mitt when I was a kid, after stalking that sweetheart in Joe Hauser’s Sport Shop, right there on Eighth Street, Sheboygan, time and time again.  I’d go in and look at it, and if I was brave enough I’d ask Hauser himself if I could just pull it over my hand for a couple of heavenly minutes.

I didn’t have the bucks to buy it, but I swear I lusted after that thing more than I did for anything female.  It was $27–that price is tagged forever in my memory.  All I remember was it cost a ton, a summer’s worth of lawn jobs.  I got a grant from my parents to cover the cost finally, but once upon a time I actually took home that dream, rubbed it lovingly with precious oils to get it loose and supple, wore it around the house to create a pocket, and then, the very next day, took it out and used it as I did every day, until finally, seasons later, it wore out.

Rawlings.  Eddie Matthews.

In high school, I bought a odd-looking, six-fingered Trap-Eze Rawlings to hold down the hot corner on my high school baseball team. It was a new design, an innovation; but no one would have doubted the Rawlings’s commitment.  After all, you trusted them with your game, for pete’s sake.

This morning, Woot has a Rawlings for $19.95, cheaper than I paid more than a half-century ago. In all likelihood, today they’re made in Pakistan or Thailand.  But if you go to their website, the Rawlings winners cost somewhere around $400, which sounds more like it.  Those are the ones Joe would have had in his Eighth Street window if he or it were around today.  Rawlings has been turning out gloves for 125 years and still buy their leather from the same famed Chicago tanners.

Branding it’s called.  All I have to do is look at that signature, and I’m head-over-heels. Nowadays the sin is envy not lust, the futile wish I could get up tomorrow morning, head over to the diamond, and hammer out a game of knock up.

As long as I’d have my Rawlings, I’d be okay.

Sin is what it was–sweet, sweet sandlot sin.  No matter.  This morning that bright red Rawlings tag makes me downright thankful for sin.

James C. Schaap

James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who has been something of a writer for most of the last 40 years. His latest work, a novel, Looking for Dawn, set in reservation country, is the story of two young women joined by their parents' mutual brokenness and, finally, a machine-shed sacrament of reconciliation. He writes and narrates a weekly essay on regional history for KWIT, public radio, Sioux City, Iowa. He and his wife Barbara live on the northern edge of Alton, Iowa, the Sgt. Floyd River a hundred yards or so from their back door. They have a cat--rather, he has them.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    I loved this one. I was a lousy baseball player who loved and still loves baseball (my thorn-in-the-flesh) and the first mitt I ever bought myself was such an idol for me. But I must be weak, because I don't remember the brand. The issue was different. I'm left-handed. My mom bought me my first mitt, for my birthday, and she bought a right-handed mitt. I was crushed. My dad failed me by not having the courage to bring it back and exchange it. My brother pitied me, but no one gave me justice. At least it was a first-baseman's mitt, so I wore it on the wrong hand. For a couple years, till I saved up enough money for my own. Until then I played every game with shame, and, of course, poor fielding.

  • Jeff Munroe says:

    My advice is buy the cheap glove. I can't advocate for the expensive one, but the other is inexpensive enough that it doesn't matter that you won't use it. Objects of beauty, which that glove surely is, can exist on their own, regardless of function. We all long for our lost childhood, and you can get a piece of yours back for 20 bucks. I'd pull the trigger.

  • Jim Bratt says:

    And mine was purchased w/ x books of S&H green stamps, doled out to my mom for grocery purchases. Sucker had glue that went liquid and gooey in hot weather. But it worked on the Alexander School sandlot, and even better in my fantasy life, where my spectacular fielding always won the girl. Cuz that's what they valued most.

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