This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (May 2019)
Batting gloves are a component in Bat-and-ball games sportswear. Typically consisting of a leather palm and back made of nylon or another synthetic fabric, the glove covers one or both hands of a batter, providing comfort, prevention of blisters, warmth, improved grip, and shock absorption when hitting the ball. The use of gloves is not obligatory in any level of the game, but they are considered an essential part of Cricket clothing and equipment.
History in Baseball
The verifiability of the claims made in this article is disputed. (December 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Some claim the first player to wear a batting glove was Bobby Thomson of the Giants, who wore golf gloves during spring training in 1949. Others say that Ted Williams was the first to wear a golf glove in batting practice during the summer of 1953, after he returned to the Red Sox from Korea. According to David Cataneo, the veteran sportswriter who wrote I Remember Williams: Anecdotes and Memories of Baseball's Splendid Splinter, Williams' manager, Fred Corcoran, who also managed Sam Snead and Babe Zaharias at that time, was with Williams one day while he was taking an extra batting practice to get back in shape. Corcoran saw the blisters on Williams' hand and pulled out a golf glove and gave it to him to try. Soon, everyone[vague] was wearing a golf glove while batting.
In 2013, an hour-long documentary, called “Hawk: The Colorful life of Ken Harrelson,” began airing on the MLB Network. At roughly the 22-minute mark of the presentation, Ken describes his involvement in the origin of the batting glove (although he calls it the “hitting” glove in the documentary). Ken does not state the year, but describes that in his first two years in the big leagues, he made more money playing golf, shooting pool, and armwrestling than he did playing major league baseball, and goes right into a story. Ken describes, after playing 27 holes of golf with fellow players, Ted Bowsfield, Gino Cimoli, and Sammy Esposito, he went straight to the ballpark for a game against the Yankees, whereby he developed a blister on his left hand during batting practice. He goes on to say that he remembered he had his golf glove in the pocket of his jeans and that he went to bat wearing the "flaming red golf glove” in the 1st inning to face Whitey [Ford]. He claims that in that 1st-inning at bat, Whitey hung him curveball that he hit it "450 feet" for a home run over the left-center wall. He goes on to say that in about the 6th inning, Whitey hung him another curveball and he hit that one about "480 feet". He concludes the story by saying the next day, all of the Yankees came out of their clubhouse with flaming red golf gloves on, as Ken stated that Mickey [Mantle] had the “clubby (clubhouse attendant) go out and purchase them. Harrelson laughs and states, “and that’s how the hitting glove got started.”
In previous versions of this page (prior to the edition of the paragraph above, which was added in Feb of 2020), there had been debate whether the story took place in 1964 while he was with the Kansas City Athletics or in 1968 while he was with the Boston Red Sox, but there is clear evidence from the documentary that the story takes place in 1964 for the following reasons: (1) Ken leads-off the story in the describing his first two seasons in the big leagues, which were ’63 and ’64, (2) the players he states he was golfing with prior to the blister were exclusively his Kansas City Athletics teammates (Ted Bowsfield and Gino Cimoli were his teammates in ’63 and ’64 and Sammy Esposito was his teammate in ’63, Sammy’s final season playing), and (3) ’64 best aligns with homering off of Whitey Ford (discussed further below) and did not homer off Whitey Ford in ’68.
Unless the story took place during a spring training game, for which there would be very limited records, Ken is misremembering the story or he has taken liberties to give it a more lyrical and apocryphal spin. Fact-checking was conducted as part of the Feb 2020 update to this page, whereby Ken’s regular season career home run log was reviewed. Ken never hit two home runs off of Whitey Ford in a single game, as he described. He had two homers off of Ford in his career, but they were in different games separated by two years and neither occurred in the 1st inning. Specifically, they occurred on 9-4-64 in the bottom of the 3rd and two years later, on 7-2-66 also in the bottom of the 3rd (during Ken’s time with the Washington Senators). Given the paragraph above, Ken would likely be recalling the 9-4-64 home run. This is further supported by the fact that this is the sole home run of the two vs. Whitey, whereby a second home run would follow later in the game, albeit not off a Whitey as Ken describes, but off Pete Mikkelsen, and it was not in the 6th inning; it was in the bottom of the 9th. To further support the 9-4-64 game, there was a game "the next day" between the KC Athletics and NY Yankees, which would corroborate Harrelson’s claim that the entire Yankees team wore the red golf gloves the following day.
Additionally, in previous versions of this article, the term batting gloves (plural) was used in association with the Ken Harrelson story, but in the documentary, Ken clearly describes a single golf glove only (which would make better sense, given that golfers only use one glove).
Peter Morris' book A Game of Inches says the batting glove may have been used as early as 1901 by Hughie Jennings, and was definitely used by Lefty O'Doul and Johnny Frederick of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932, and later by Bobby Thomson in the 1950s. Morris credits Ken Harrelson with reintroducing and popularizing the batting glove in the 1960s. Roger Maris also used what was thought[by whom?] to be a batting glove, most likely a golf glove, in the 1961 season.
Batting gloves became an essential and common element of MLB during the early 1980s with Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies spearheading efforts of Franklin Sports to become the choice of the majority of players. Over time Franklin Sports became[when?] (and remains today) the official batting glove of Major League Baseball.
The majority of baseball players, at any level of play, wear batting gloves. They are worn because they help increase the quality of the grip on the bat. Maintaining a tight and controlled grip is essential to successful hits. Even the slightest slip or variation in grip can cost the team greatly. They also act as a protector of the hand when one slides into a base. Batting gloves today are even worn by fielders because they say that they feel better in their glove. Another prime use for batting gloves, especially in younger leagues that permit aluminum bats, is shock protection. On a cold day, a bad or loose swing can fracture fingers.
- Louisville Slugger (TPX)
- Under Armour
- Franklin Sports (official batting glove of Major League Baseball)