Moises Alou reached into his locker stall in the Wrigley Field clubhouse, rummaging among caps, Cubs uniform pants, game jerseys and pairs of cleats. Then he hauled out a well-worn glove.
Once shiny, the black outfielder's mitt resembled a house sorely in need of paint. The color was faded. Splotches pockmarked the fingers and heel.
After 12 seasons of regular-season use, four All-Star Games and one World Series, Alou faced the fraying leather and reality in spring training. He retired the glove.
"It was ready to fall apart," Alou said.
All-Star or Little Leaguer, a player's relationship with his glove is personal. Some players go through gloves and girlfriends at the same brisk rate. Others are together for the long haul. Some players treat gloves like leased cars, replacing them annually. Others clearly remember the first glove they owned.
White Sox catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., the son of a major-leaguer, grins when he recalls his Little League receiver's equipmenta Christmas gift from his father.
"It was Champion model gear," said Alomar, a six-time All-Star. "I was ecstatic. Later, I put that glove in a trophy case. It is at my mother's house in Puerto Rico."
In the beginning, there were no gloves. In his new book, "Glove Affairs: The Romance, History, and Tradition of the Baseball Glove," author Noah Liberman of Chicago reports that Doug Allison of the Cincinnati Red Stockings was the first professional to use hand protection in a game in 1870. But for yearsbefore and afterit was not considered manly to play wearing a glove.
Rawlings, the present glovemaking leader, introduced its Bill Doak model, a rather puffy, pliable glove, in 1919. But quality evolved slowly, Liberman writes.
"[In] 1943, 40 years after Wilbur Wright's flight,
pilots were flying jets and
professionals were still catching balls with pillows."
A journey through the National Baseball Hall of Fame's "Evolution of the Glove" exhibit in Cooperstown, N.Y., makes an observer wonder how anybody ever caught anything before 1919.
Some items in the collection: fingerless leather pads from the 1870s, a fingerless glove from 1883 that resembles a potholder and bicycle-type gloves that seem better for seizing handlebars than balls.
Cubs Hall of Fame infielder Johnny Evers' glove seemed puny, perhaps 7 inches from palm to the apex of the middle finger. Current infielders' gloves, like the ones that will be used in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, are half again as large. Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench used a mitt that seemed as large as a hubcap.
Liberman and modern-day manufacturers credit the Wilson A-2000, introduced in 1957, as the breakthrough. It was thinner and allowed the catching hand to better grasp a ball.
Ironically, those "pillows" that Liberman scoffed at are hot items down the street from the Hall at National Pastime, a memorabilia shop.
Some 400 gloves dating to the 1890s, but primarily from the 1930s, are crammed into a large glass case, an overflow drawer and the basement.
Owner Michael Fassett calls them vintage gloves. Though he makes no claim that any big-name professional used the shorter, stubbier gloves, he said he sells about 100 a year.
A Joe DiMaggio glove on display listed for $465. A 1920s kid's catcher's mitt had a price tag of $135.