The Invention of the Catcher's Mitt

(Undated, personally typed letter from the archives of the Hall of Fame)

While I was catching for the Kansas City Blues in the Western League, in 1888, there were two games scheduled for Decoration Day. Our other catcher was injured, and I had a crippled finger on my left hand.

I stitched together the fingers of my left-hand glove, thus practically making a "mitt"; and then I caught both games. It worked so well that I got to work. Took an old paint-pot wire handle, the old flannel belts from our castoff jackets, rolled the cloth around the ends of the finger, and padded the thumb. Then I put sheepskin with the wool on it in the palm and covered it with buckskin, thus completing the mitt, and the suffering and punishment we endured at the then fifty-foot pitching distances was all over.

I then began to let other catchers try the mitt. While Tom Nagle of the Omaha Club was using it, I sat on the bench, foolishly expalining the glove to Ted Kennedy, his pitcher. I had agreed to give our manager James Maniing half interest (in the mitt), if he would patent it for me in the fall when he went on the world tour with the Spalding aggregation.

Owner Edward Menges wanted me to let him take it to Chicago to let the Spalding company make it and handle it. I was to get royalty, but I told him I had always been as good as my word and would wait for Manning to return.

When at home in Philadelphia, I received a wire from Des Moines, Iowa, from Ted Kennedy, with a blue-print of a wire-protected mitt which he wanted to sell me for ten dollars. Then catcher Decker of Chicago sensed his mistake - that he had only patented the wire protecting the mitt, and not the mitt proper.

The Decker began to make them without the wire, which I had eliminated long before, realizing that I had sufficient protection without it. Then nearly everybody began making mitts, and consequently no one made anything from them.

Two men came up to see me when we were playing in Baltimore in 1889 saying they could fix it up for me, but I told them I would not bother. I gave the privilege of using the glove to or then manager, William H. Watkins: our team was then in the big league. The two men worked "Watty" for about $50.00 and he never heard from them. So we had the laugh on Watkins.

However, I have received credit for being the real inventor, in write-ups for the last forty years. When the officials of the Hall of Fame asked for the glove, they also asked for conveincing evidence of my claim; so I sent them seven names and addresses of living witnesses with affidavits that they pitched or caught with the mitt in 1888. The glove now rest in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.

I was with five pennant winenrs in the minors and played with Washington, Union Association in 1884, and with Baltimore, Cleveland, and St. Louis in the National League.

I have a life-time pass (to ML games) and I attend a great number of games accompanied by my wife. So I have much for which to be thankful.


Jos. B. Gunson"

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