While everyone I knew as a child had baseball gloves with the stamped autographs of Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, my first glove — and only glove — was emblazoned with the signature of Dave Boswell.
Boswell, as some fans may remember, was a Minnesota Twins pitcher who in 1969 gained notoriety for being punched by then-Twins manager Billy Martin.
It stands to reason that my glove was endorsed by a player more know for taking a hit than for keeping batters from hitting his pitches. While I was proud of the glove, it didn’t make me proud of my fielding prowess. My ability to grab a hot grounder was much like Boswell’s ability to duck a punch. It just didn’t happen.
My parents bought the glove in the basement of a grocery store in northern Minnesota. It was the same place we bought hockey sticks and had our ice skates sharpened in the fall. In the summer, baseballs lined the shelves. In the winter, pucks replaced them.
I don’t remember the year I got the glove, but I know it was before 1969. I know my glove was already worn in when Boswell was hit; my glove became a brief sensation amongst my playmates when Boswell's fight with Martin happened.
Boswell wasn’t that bad of a pitcher. In 1969, he won 20 games for the Twins. He also pitched in for Minnesota in the 1965 World Series.
I remember the glove was crisp and needed to be broken in properly. I would fold the glove and then place it under the rear tire of my dad’s car, waiting for him to back up and create a good crease in the pocket. I also dragged the glove behind me on a bike, rolling through puddles in the street, hoping that would loosen the stiff faux leather.
I treated that glove horribly, but I loved it. I slept with it and I often put it to my face, peering through the holes in the glove and taking in its scent. It had a home on the handle bars of my bicycle as I peddled to my friend’s back yard where we always played whiffle ball.
It was a good glove.
It served me in my brief Little League career. I played left field for our team, the Twins. In my only game, I misjudged a fly ball and the sickening “plop” of the ball behind me sent the coach into a tirade. He yelled at me in the field and took me out of the game. I pouted for a while and then walked home, never to play organized ball again.
Later, as I grew, basketball became more the sport we played and the baseball glove was not as prominent in my world. I still played catch with myself sometimes, throwing a rubber baseball against a netted pitch-back or against a wall.
But the glove was no longer a vital part of my youth.
Now, nearly half a century later, I have no idea where the glove is. Obviously, I couldn’t cram my adult-sized hand into the child-sized glove if I had it. But it would be nice to see it and to hold it and to remember it. It’d be nice to see Boswell’s autograph and to see the wear on it.
And it’d be nice to put it up to my face once again to peer through the holes in the pocket and hope to catch a faint scent of youth.