Inside The Painful History Of The First Baseball Glove

Bet that felt padding didn't do much for comfort

April 4th is the official opening day of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, and Popular Science is celebrating the occasion by looking back at the first ever patent for the baseball glove. It was filed in 1885 by George R. Rawlings, who owned a St. Louis sporting goods' store and wanted to create a device that used felt and padding to protect the fingers and palms of those who were flocking to the relatively new sport, which became popular during the Civil War.

Glove patent design

Glove patent design

The original design of the baseball glove, from September 1885.National Archives
baseball glove
Drawing of a baseball glove described in the January 1896 issue of Popular Science.Popular Science

Popular Science first wrote about the baseball glove in an issue from January 1896. The article, which is titled, 'The Ball Can't Drop Out of This Glove', highlights the technological advances that were already spinning the game forward. Or, if not forward, at least in an interesting direction:

Major Robert H. Young, of the United States Air Service, has invented a baseball glove that swallows this compressed air, creating a partial vacuum in the glove and eliminating the tendency to rebound. There are air holes in the padded palm to which flexible tubes are attached. These tubes have their outlets in the sides of the glove. There are valves at the end of the tubes that prevent air from entering.

Major Robert H. Young, the Billy Beane of the 19th century.