Earlier this week, I published an article detailing information about H&B bat production quantities in 1940. That piece sparked both inaccurate/unfounded comments as well as some good questions for further discussion. Brett Lowman, the moderator of the Vintage Baseball Glove Forum (a highly recommended read run by a good guy) was curious about how the number of bats produced compared to that of gloves. In thinking about this question, I began to ask myself “should we expect to see the annual production of gloves as being higher or lower than bats”? I also began to think about what the ratio might be and why.
On the surface, there seems to be rationale to support both possibilities. On one hand, (no pun intended), baseball gloves are fundamentally required in greater quantity than bats. If each player on a team is minimally equipped, then the team would require a basic issue of nine gloves and only one bat. There also need to be provisions for the difference between a left handed player and one who is right handed with respect to catching and throwing. This could add to the number of gloves required as well. I have yet to encounter a left handed or right handed bat. Gloves are however, a more durable product and can be expected to last longer than bat. I also don’t remember “glove day” at Riverfront Stadium as kid…On Bat Day, we got a bat. Production costs for bats are also lower as a rule, and as such, bats would be the more affordable of the two, thus increasing the possibility for greater production.
This information is of some general interest to the glove collecting community since the relationship between a top of line retail offering and that used by the major league player is much closer than that of bats. To keep all of this manageable and to ensure I got something out for those likable leather lovers to chew on in a timely manner, I looked at this as a snapshot in time. That snapshot taken from the mid 1950s. I picked this period because I knew that some data could be found. The data comes by way of litigation involving Spalding and their acquisition of the Rawlings Manufacturing Company.
For those desiring to look into this case in greater detail, the source of this information is:
301 F.2d 585
A. G. SPALDING & BROS., INC., Petitioner,
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, Respondent.
United States Court of Appeals Third Circuit.
Argued Feb. 21, 1961.
Decided March 22, 1962.
You will find that the summary includes this language:
“A.G. Spalding & Bros., Inc. (Spalding) seeks to review and set aside an order of the Federal Trade Commission (Commission) directing it to divest itself of all the capital stock and assets of Rawlings Manufacturing Company (Rawlings) which it acquired in 1955. The order was based upon the Commision’s opinion concluding that the acquisition of Rawlings bh Spalding violated 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 64 Stat. 1125, 15 U.S.C.A. 18, which provides in pertinent part as follows:
No corporation engaged in commerce shall acquire, directly or indirectly, the whole or any part of the stock or other share capital and no corporation subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission shall acquire the whole or any part of the assets of another corporation engaged also in commerce, where in any line of commerce in any section of the country, the effect of such acquisition may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”
This case is full of production quantities and pricing information on a variety of products by various manufacturers. I went back to look at it because I knew it contained some information on gloves. The chart pictured can in fact be found on line as an exhibit to the cited court case. Before you begin to draw any conclusions from this data, we need to make sure we are straight with what it actually shows and does not show.
This data only shows the number of gloves PURCHASED by Spalding from these various manufacturers over a two year period (1955-1956). It does not account for:
-Gloves manufactured by Spalding.
-Glove produced by these manufacturers and NOT sold to Spalding.
-Gloves produced by other manufacturers not listed, whether the gloves were sold to Spalding or anyone else.
This is important to understand before trying to figure out or estimate a total number of gloves produced. For example, by 1955 Wilson had acquired at least seven smaller firms and was operating 13 manufacturing plants across the country. Were all of these Wilson plants churning out gloves exclusively? Of course they weren’t, but you have to account for scope when considering production output.
In looking at this data, as with the bat data from H&B in 1940, you also have to consider the relationship between product quality and demand. In 1955 there were still only 16 major league teams. Even if you factor in the minor leagues and collegiate level play, there was still a greater market and production demand from youth and recreational players who did not a require a $27.00 Stan Musial Personal Model fielders glove any more than they needed a Wilson model A2406 Twin Action catcher’s mitt running some $34. Remember, the Federal minimum wage in 1955 was only $0.75 an hour. In other words, these gloves, at these prices, at this time, represent about a weeks wages before taxes. Even when the Federal minimum wage was increased by 25% to $1.00 in 1956, a top of the line/professional quality glove was not an inexpensive proposition. By 1955, the Little League baseball organization had a formal presence in all of the 48 States and baseball’s appeal overseas was growing as well. This stands to reason given the number of 8-9 year olds coming out of the Post World War II “Baby Boom.” On average, over 3.7 million children were born in the U.S. per year between 1946 and 1955, with the high water mark of the baby boom not reached until 1957 with 4.3 million births. With all that being said, now I think we can begin to look at this number of 521,061 gloves in 1955 and 1956 with some sort of informed perspective.
If these Spalding purchase numbers represent 10% of the total market production capacity (not a small percentage by the way) then the total produced during the period of 1955-1956 would have been some 5,210,610 gloves or just over 2.6 million gloves a year. Double that to 20 % and that would be 2,605,305 or 1.3 million gloves per year.
As a means of period comparison, Bob Hill’s “Crack of the Bat” (p76), indicates that by 1956, “the company (H&B) was making nearly 3 million baseball and softball bats, more than its two top competitors , McLaughlin-Millard at Doldgeville, N.Y., and the Hanna Manufacturing Co, Athens, Ga, combined”.
You would also have to consider that Adirondack and Hanna were not the only produces competing in the bat market the total product production numbers is very easily well above 6 million bats.
As far as surviving product from this period in today’s market, by and large I would offer that although produced in lesser quantity than bats, gloves remain more readily available. In part, I think this can be attributed to the durability of the product. In all the time playing ball as a kid, or coaching or watching it as an adult, I have never seen a glove break in half or shatter during play. Size and store-ability also come into play. Any Mom will attest to the fact that gloves are easier to store than bats. Another, and probably the more significant reason gloves have outlasted their lumber companions has to do with emotional or sentimental factors. A first glove is something special, a first “real glove” is a thing to treasure for a life time. As I said at the outset, this article was prompted by a question posed from the Vintage Baseball Glove Forum. The readership there, by and large, is full of those individuals who understand the relationship between first glove, first real glove, first love, and first real love….For many of them, it is all one in the same. For that community and for the rest of you,
Collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com