"The Art of Breaking in a Baseball Glove"

(continued from Miami News page)
It is no simple matter to get it that way. Nor is there any one secret to success in the Art of Breaking in a Baseball Glove.

Yankee pitcher Ron Davis uses shaving cream on his, any kind he can find in the clubhouse. He just sprays the foam on, and lets it soak in, then repeats the process every now and then.

"It makes the leather darker, softer, smooooth," he says as he runs his fingers over his glove.Where did he ever get such an idea? "I saw Brooks Robinson do it."

When a glove is a year or so old, Davis soaks it in water, puts a ball in it, squashes the glove around the ball, and sticks it in the freezer. "When it comes out it's real heavy, but when it thaws out, after about a week, it has better shape to it. I like a glove with texture, not a mushy glove. If you're catching line drives and the glove is too loose, you'll lose it. The ball will take it right out of your hand."

Pitching instructor Whitey Ford will just "wet the whole glove, put three balls in it, fold it over real tight, tie it up with string or something and leave it like that two or or three days." As he speaks, the former Yankee relief pitcher throws his glove onto the concrete floor of the dugout, reaches for a nearby bat and starts pounding its fat end into the palm of the glove. "Some gusy just do it like this," he says.

But others would object to forming a pocket for a ball by such arbitrary means. Michael, an ex-infielder, says most outfielders will try to form the glove so that it folds thumb over pinky finger, while most infielders will break a glove in so that its fingers fold down to the palm "so you can get rid of the ball fast. That's what an infielder has to do, catch and throw fast, where for an outfielder the important thing is for him to catch the ball -- and so he'll want more webbing in the glove." To soften the leather, he says, use a little neat's-foot oil (made from the bones of cattle and used chiefly as a leather dressing) or baby oil. "I never thought water did any good," he adds.

' Some players will throw their gloves, packed with balls and bound up like a rump roast, in an oven for a while for drying.'

Coach Yogi Berra says he always ties two balls in the palm of the glove and throws it in a whirlpool for 10 minutes, lets it dry four or five days and then applies oil to it. Then, once in a while, he'll spit in it. "Helps soften it," he says.

Dent is not impressed with oil, contending "it'll rot the glove." Further, before he even starts breaking in the glove, he has his glove manufacturer, Rawlings, insert foam rubber in its fingers to make them straight. This, he says, is because if the fingers flop over, they'll get in the way of the ball going into the glove.

Dent says he heard that Ed Brinkman, who used to play for the Detroit Tigers, soaked his glove in hot coffee. Some players will throw their gloves, packed with balls and bound up like a rump roast, in an oven for a while for drying. Yankee pitcher Cliff Johnson prefers the leather moist when he puts on the glove, so that it dries to the shape of his hand.

But some players don't believe in any of this. Outfielder Reggie Jackson breaks his glove in, he says dryly, "by using it" during spring training.

Copyright 1979 The Miami News

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