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July 7, 1939
Newspaper Clipping 

July 24, 1939
Newspaper Clipping

July  13, 1943 Latina Trapper Patent

 

  Collectors News Announcements and Articles of Interest  
Keymancollectibles.com The Webs Best Recourse for Baseball Memorabilia July 20, 2017
  Hank Greenberg's Fishnet First Baseman's Mitt - Rule 21 and The Trapper Model  
     
    The development of the "Trapper" begins with Hank Greenberg, first baseman of the Detroit Tigers. In 1938 there were no rules about the type or size of a first baseman's mitt. Rule 21 states: "The catcher or firstbaseman may wear a leather glove or mitt of any size, shape or weight. Every other player is restricted to the use of a leather glove weighing not more than 10 ounces and measuring not over 14 inches around the palm. The pitcher's glove must be uniform in color."

 Hank Greenberg concocted a mitt that looked as big as a catchers mitt with a fishing net attached. In 1939 Greenberg's oversized mitt was the source of worry, and protest. A local sports writer wrote in jest that the mitt was "Ready for anything. This mitt is a triumph of modern science. It Contains: 1. Three lengths of barbed wire. 2. Four corners, and two side pockets as on a pool table. 3. A fishnet, rod and reel, hoe, shovel, and trowel. 4. A small but select library of standard classics. 5. A compact anti-aircraft gun to bring down high throws. 6. A change of clothes, and a pocket comb, for Hank is a dapper fellow who likes to be prepared for emergencies."

 Greenberg's mitt was no worse than others except it might have been a little bit larger than some. The first basemen were not the only offenders. Nearly every fielder in baseball had doctored his glove to some extent and the regulations were vague. June of 1939, Judge Kenesaw M. Landis investigated the matter. In general players did not take it serious. Hank would not give up his glove to an umpire unless they promised to let him use a peach basket in its place. After being notified by the office of Judge Landis that his glove would be taken away, Greenberg changed his defensive tactics. 

 What Hank planned to do was build a three-sided fence back and around first base, with wire hen-coop netting stretched above it to take care of the higher throws from infielders Pinky Higgins, and Billy Rogell. The ground within the stockade would be funneled out so that the ball hitting against any part of the fence, would automatically roll into the center of the pit, where Hank could pick it up and touch the bag at his leisure. When word reached Greenberg from the Landis office that the fences were out. Hank replied "But if you take my glove away what is to become of my iron defense? Do you want me to use flypaper?

 Joe McCarthy, manager of the Yankees when he had nothing else to beef about, used to beef about Greenberg's mitt. "What have you got there a butterfly net?" McCarthy would snarl at Greenberg, pointing to the glove. Hank with his feelings hurt, would reach into the mitt, pull out a good book and begin to browse through it, ignoring McCarthy, while Joe and the umps went at it. It was good clean fun, until the day the Landis office decided to attack the glove problem and clean up the glove situation.

 Rule 21 was rewritten at the time the protest was made about the mitt Hank Greenberg was using and was inserted into the rulebook that year. Presidents in both leagues were informed that the players should be warned that the rule would be strictly enforced by all umpires within a few days of the receipt of the notice.
 
     
    Landis did not want the gloves to resemble a birds nest or a "lacrosse racquet." Interlocking fishnet type webbing was out. The lacing must go straight across from thumb to index finger and may not be crossed. First basemen contend that single lacing permitted for them under the new rules was not sufficient, but Judge Landis made the players conform to the rule whether they liked it or not.

  It was a fortuitous time for Rawlings glove designer Harry B. Latina. by 1940 he revolutionized the base mitt with his "Trapper" design, replacing the older "Oven Mitt" style. In 1940 Rawlings and Latina filed for a patent that was granted in 1942. The main object of Latina's invention was to provide a baseball mitt, which is of such design or construction that when it is subjected to the pressure of a caught ball, will automatically close around the ball, effectively "Trap" it. A design that also complies with the rules, regulations and requirements pertaining to such devices, and which has a ball back-stop that is more efficient than those employed in mitts of conventional design. The "Trapper model" is born.

 The glove was a hit with players however there was concern that the lacing could be loosened up to make the web bigger than the dimensions in the rule book for a legal glove. In 1950 modifications were made and a patent was applied for to place a "web controller" strap at the top of the web. That way, no matter how much you loosened up the laces, the web could only get as wide as the web controller, maintaining the legal distance between the thumb and forefinger. The patent was granted in 1953.

 The Trapper Model featured a well balanced design that permits the mitt to break as much on the little finger side as the thumb side, causing both sides of the mitt to close over the ball, when the ball hits the center panel, and forms a positive trap. The Trapper model was picked up by all the major manufactures. Most came with instructions on how to wear the mitt.

The center panel of the web warned: "DO NOT PUT FINGERS IN THIS SECTION" The thumb was inserted in its usual place, and on the pinky side of the glove read "PLACE ALL FINGERS IN THIS SECTION WITH SMALL & THIRD FINGERS THRU ADJUSTIBLE LOOP"
 
 
 
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