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Batting gloves are a component in baseball sportswear. Typically consisting of a leather palm and back made of nylon or another synthetic fabric, the glove covers one or both hands of a batter, providing comfort, warmth, improved grip, and shock absorption when hitting the ball. The use of gloves is not obligatory in any level of the game, but they are considered an essential part of baseball clothing and equipment.
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Some claim the first player to wear a batting glove was Bobby Thomson of the Giants, who wore golf gloves during spring training in 1949. Others say that Ted Williams was the first to wear a golf glove in batting practice during the summer of 1953, after he returned to the Red Sox from Korea. According to David Cataneo, the veteran sportswriter who wrote I Remember Williams: Anecdotes and Memories of Baseball's Splendid Splinter, Williams' manager, Fred Corcoran, who also managed Sam Snead and Babe Zaharias at that time, was with Williams one day while he was taking an extra batting practice to get back in shape. Corcoran saw the blisters on Williams' hand and pulled out a golf glove and gave it to him to try. Soon, everyone was wearing a golf glove while batting.
The first person to wear a batting glove in a game was Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Some sources say Harrelson first wore golf gloves while playing for the Kansas City A's in 1964. Others cite a more lyrical and perhaps apocryphal tale, in which Harrelson was with the Red Sox in 1968 and, not expecting to play in a night game, spent the afternoon playing golf. Arriving at the ballpark with blistered hands after shooting 27 holes, he was surprised to find himself in the starting lineup and resorted to wearing golf gloves to protect his sore hands. Rusty Staub was the first to wear the golf gloves on a daily basis.
Batting gloves became an essential and common element of MLB during the early 1980s with Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies spearheading efforts of Franklin Sports to become the choice of the majority of players. Over time Franklin Sports became (and remains today) the official batting glove of Major League Baseball.
The majority of baseball players, at any level of play, wear batting gloves. They are worn because they help increase the quality of the grip on the bat. Maintaining a tight and controlled grip is essential to successful hits. Even the slightest slip or variation in grip can cost the team greatly. They also act as a protector of the hand when one slides into a base. Batting gloves today are even worn by fielders because they say that they feel better in their glove. Another prime use for batting gloves, especially in younger leagues that permit aluminum bats, is shock protection. On a cold day, a bad or loose swing can fracture fingers.
In spite of the gloves' ubiquity, several Major League players bat gloveless:
Some older players who often didn't wear batting gloves: