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Lot # 713 (of 1411)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Nineteenth-Century Fingerless Baseball Glove with Matching Full-Finger Glove

Starting Bid - $1,500.00, Sold For - $20,880.00

Offered here are two exceedingly rare and historically significant baseball artifacts relating to the evolution of the sport: a circa 1890 fingerless baseball glove with its matching full-fingered glove model. It is fascinating to note that these gloves originate directly from the grandson of an amateur ballplayer who was born in 1869 and was, by all known family accounts, a star player with his local town team in South Orrington, Maine, in the late 1880s and early 1890s. A letter from the family detailing this accompanies. Fingerless baseball gloves are exceedingly rare and it is estimated that there are fewer than ten surviving examples known. The offered fingerless example (for use on the right hand) is lightweight and resembles a golf glove in that the fingers and thumbs don't extend past the first joint. The palm is padded and the open-back design features a single strap with a button fastener. Constructed of what appears to be soft horsehide or buckskin, the glove bears no manufacturer's tags and remains in fine condition, especially considering its age. The palm displays moderate wear and there is a small area of abrasion along the side. There are no significant tears and the original button is firmly anchored to the reverse. The companion glove (for use on the left hand) is equally interesting in its design. The glove is similar in composition to the other example with regard to manufacture and materials but features five full fingers. All of the fingers, with the exception of the thumb, have been reinforced along the tip with heavy leather for extra protection. The reverse features a similar open-back design and a single strap that would have been fastened with a button (no longer present). The glove displays heavy wear throughout, including a few abrasions, stains, and tears to the interior leather lining. These gloves were worn together as a pair on the field, as was the custom of the day for catchers. The fingerless glove allowed the fielder the flexibility to throw the ball, while the heavier, full-fingered glove offered the protection needed to avoid swollen hands and broken fingers. According to the grandson's accompanying letter, his grandfather played several positions including catcher. Thus, he would have needed two gloves and it also explains why the full-fingered glove displays more wear than that of its fingerless counterpart. The first recorded instance of any player using a baseball glove dates to the season of 1869, when Cincinnati Red Stockings catcher Doug Allison first experimented with the idea by having a glove made for him by a local saddle maker. At that time, however, it was considered "unmanly" for players to seek protection for one's hands and the use of a glove was considered a sign of weakness. In 1875 Charles Waite of the St. Louis Brown Stockings became the first fielder to wear a fingerless glove. Unfortunately for him, he was the subject of intense ridicule by not only the opposing players and fans, but by his own teammates as well. Obviously, the timing was not right for the widespread acceptance of baseball gloves. It would take a few more years, along with a significant rule change, before the use of gloves became accepted. In the 1880s a rule was passed that made even the most "manly" of players consider using gloves: pitchers were now allowed to throw overhand. With the speed of pitches now greatly increased, balls were being thrown with alarming force to catchers, and struck with much greater force by batters. Valor quickly gave way to discretion. That decade witnessed players adopting the use of a tight fingerless glove for use in the field. Catchers normally wore a pair of gloves on their hands during that era, as they were clearly in the most vulnerable position with regard to hand injuries. It should be noted that from the time of their inception, until about 1920, gloves were designed simply for protection for the player's hands rather than fielding aids. These two gloves are an extraordinary find. Fingerless gloves are among the rarest of all nineteenth-century baseball equipment. The companion, full-fingered glove is just as rare. This is the first time we have ever seen a matched pair offered together. These gloves are very rare and significant museum-quality relics relating to the history and evolution of the sport, with direct provenance to the ballplayer to whom they belonged. Accompanied by a non-vintage print of a ballplayer wearing a very similar matched set of gloves. Reserve $1,500. Estimate $3,000/$5,000+. SOLD FOR $20,880.00

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