If I was about ten years older, I know I would have had to had one. By the time I was old enough for some serious leather, they had already gone the way the Brontosaurus. I’m talking about that “six finger” glove design by Rawlings know as the TRAPEZE or the Spalding TRAPOCKET. As much as the glove was billed as having “six fingers” when introduced in 1959, the sixth finger was nothing more than a laced island in the web. Not sure if they were any good, but the looked cool. True classics never go out of style and they are still is use today thanks largely to Ozzie Smith.
You will find these gloves mentioned for the first time in the Rawlings catalog in 1960 as part of the TG series of gloves and they fall away in the Rawlings catalogs after 1965. Spalding began listing their variation of this, the TRAPOCKET in their 1962 catalog. It appears that both were available earlier than their catalog dates and this is largely due to the fact that catalogs for a given year would have to had been produced prior to the start of the year on the cover in order for retailers to place orders and have product available before the start of that calendar year. Also, I am sure the glove manufacturers would want to have lined up some big league users in order to support marketing and sales.
VOL 3, 1959 of the Rawlings Roundup identifies early users of this unique design as being (names in bold are for those early users Rawlings would go to feature a signature model of):
Vinegar Bend Mizell
Other players featured by Rawlings in their catalogs from 1960-1965 not on their list of early users include:
The glove design was attributed as a father-son effort between Harry & Rollie Latina.
The first commercial use of the TRAPEZE is shown by the U.S. Patent office as being in May of 1959. The Rawlings Roundup was published eight (8) times a year or roughly every six and half weeks…so VOL 3 of the 1959 Rawlings Roundup would have likely come out in May of 1959 and may be along the lines of the first commercial publication. In order to reflect the early users, the gloves may have tried out in spring training of that year or at least would have had to include the early 1959 season.
The filing date for the trademark is shown to have been June 12th 1959 and applied for
(REGISTRANT) A. G. SPALDING & BROS., INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE 2300 DELMAR BLVD. ST. LOUIS MISSOURI
(LAST LISTED OWNER) RAWLINGS SPORTING GOODS COMPANY INC CORPORATION BY ASSIGNMENT DELAWARE 1859 INTERTECH DR FENTON MISSOURI 63026
This information is not surprising given that a merger was announced between Rawlings and Spalding late in 1955. This was to stay in the courts for some time until the U.S. Court of Appeals voided the Rawlings-Spalding merger in April of 1962 (See The Sporting Goods Dealer, April 1962). According to Joe Phillips, glove expert and all around great guy:
Rawlings was the fourth largest sporting goods concern in the United States in 1954, with sales of about $12 million. The following year it was sold for $5.7 million in stock to A.G. Spalding & Bros., Inc., the second largest sporting goods company in the nation. At this time Rawlings was producing merchandise from baseball gloves, balls, and shoes, and protective football equipment, and supplies for badminton, basketball, bowling, boxing, golf, softball, tennis, track, volleyball, and wrestling. Following a review of the Spalding acquisition, the Federal Trade Commission charged that the deal represented a violation of antitrust laws and in 1960 ordered Spalding to divest itself of Rawlings. Spalding took the case to court but lost and in 1963 sold the firm–which had been renamed Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., to a group of private investors for about $10.3 million in cash and notes. John L. Burns, the new chairman and chief executive officer, said Rawlings’ sales had exceeded $20 million in 1962 and that the company had not lost money in any year of its existence.
It appears that Rawlings may have been actually making Spalding gloves since the mid 1950s and it is not surprising their models and features were so similar in design and timing.
Spalding lists their version of this product, “the TRAPOCKET” in their catalogs beginning in 1962 with this line of endorsers:
We do know that Spalding offered this type of glove before 1962 as evident by period photographs such as Whitey Ford from August 9th 1961. If Ford held true to his endorsement and use of Spalding products, he can also be seen with some variation of this web design in the 1960 World Series as well. The images suggest it is an early TRAPEZE or TRAPOCKET which is different from what it appears Ford would use later on. Rocky Colavito can also be seen in the 2nd All Star Game of 1961 with an early version of the Spalding TRAPOCKET style web.
Lists of players either having used a TRAPEZE or TRAPOCKET are useful, but I decided to scan some my reference library to see if I could find images of players either listed or not, but pictured with this web design. Other places to look include period baseball cards as well. My focus was on the late 1950s and early 1960s and I have pictured some of my finds for your reference.
As you look through these photos and others that may interest you, please pay attention to the web/pocket design and not simply the lacing. The TRAPEZE and TRAPOCKET evolved over time from a “finger” to a wider more “flared” design and both knowing this looking for it can be helpful to know on the front end.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. Maybe you’ll consider picking up some of this legendary leather for display or play purposes. I hope you do.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line DaveGrob1@aol.com