Your baseball glove is an extension of your baseball-self, you want to love it.
The gloves we use today have evolved from no gloves at all in the 19th century. Some of the best defensive stars of their generation (or all-time) have become legends while using what we would now consider unusable.
Look at this photo of Joe DiMaggio from his MVP season of 1939. Notice his rather rudimentary baseball glove. It was better than the ones he probably grew-up using, but more modern gloves were still 20 years away.
If you were ever told by a coach to use two hands to catch a ball, it’s based on advice from those old gloves. Gloves today don’t require two handed catching, they are engineered completely differently.
Although there have been 2 really big players in the space for the last 50 years, Wilson and Rawlings have to share the spotlight today with a few competitors.
Rawlings Baseball Gloves
Rawlings became synonymous with baseball gloves in the 1920s after St. Louis pitcher Bill Doak, then famous for his spitball, suggested his hometown sporting goods company connect the thumb and forefinger of a glove with webbing to create a small pocket. The Doak model glove, which Rawlings sold until 1949, drastically changed the game.
The Rawlings mitt Mickey Mantle used in his 1956 Triple Crown year, for instance, resembles something a Little League tee-ball player would use today. “It’s sort of flat and it doesn’t actually close easily because of the bulk of the padding, so you’ve got to use both hands,” Bob Clevenhagen (Rawlings glove designer) notes.
In 1958, Rawlings began making its XPG model in response to Wilson’s A2000, which had a larger web, a deeper pocket and less padding than previous models. With Mantle’s autograph on it, the glove quickly became Rawlings most popular model. It introduced “Heart of the Hide” leather, the “edge-U-cated heel”and the “Deep Well” pocket, still offered on gloves today.
Today, you should plan on spending some serious cash if you’re going to order Rawlings top-of-the-line mitts. The advantage to being prepared t spend over $500 on your glove means you can personalize it!
If you were checking out the gloves worn by your favorite MLB team in 2018, you would have mostly seen either Rawlings gloves (about 59%) or Wilson (about 28%). The next brand to show up was Mizuno coming in at about 6%.
Wilson Baseball Gloves
The Wilson A2000 has been the glove used by lots of professional ball players for a long time. It was back in 1957 when Thomas E. Wilson created the very popular A2000 model.
The A2000 had a deeper pocket and closed shut like a pair of jaws. Now, infielder and outfielders were snatching grounders and fly balls with ease.
Since 1957 Wilson has continued to modify their flagship glove. Today the A2000 is actually playing second fiddle to their A2K glove. Wilson still regards both as professional gloves, but acknowledges that Wilson glove technicians spend three times longer working in the leather on A2K gloves, which is why the A2K is known for being softer than the A2000. Also, the softer leather makes the A2K easier to break in.
Since I use a Wilson A2000 from the 1970’s I can also add that they use to use leather from the United States but somewhere in the late 80’s or early 1990’s they started using leather from Japan. So if you are looking for the “Made in USA” brand on the glove, you better get over to eBay and look for a vintage glove.
Mizuno Baseball Gloves
While Rawlings and Wilson remain two top glove brands, others helped to evolve the glove too. Mizuno Corporation was founded in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno. Surprisingly, Mizuno did not start selling athletic equipment in the U.S. until 1980.
Mizuno is no throw-away brand. They make an incredibly beautiful glove that retails at $600 and is being used by over 100 major league players.
Other Baseball Glove Choices
There are obviously dozens of baseball glove manufacturers to choose from and many of them offer amazing gloves are prices far below the ones mentioned above.
44Gloves allows you to build out a completely custom glove for under $200. You may have seen this brand being worn by some big leaguers already. The only downside is the wait for your custom glove to arrive in the mail.