Baseball Legends Revealed #17

This is the seventeenth in a series of examinations of baseball-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous baseball legends.

This installment is a re-format edition, 2/3 of these legends have already been posted on this site, just not in this format.

Let’s begin!

BASEBALL LEGEND: Ken “Hawk” Harrelson invented the batting glove.

STATUS: False

Before becoming the extremely popular (in Chicago, at least) announcer for the Chicago White Sox for most of the past three decades (and ALL of the past two), Ken “Hawk” Harrelson was a good baseball player for many years for a few different teams.

Whatever his successes ON the field (which included coming in third in the 1968 MVP balloting) and in the radio booth, for years he has been credited for something that is perhaps more notable than all of those things – the invention of the batting glove, now a staple in Major League Baseball.

Here‘s a site making the claim.

As the story goes, Harrelson was golfing one day when he wasn’t in the staring lineup (Harrelson WAS an avid golfer) and when he showed up at the ballpark his hands were blistered like mad. However, he ended up having to bat that day, so he figured that wearing his golf gloves would help protect his blistered hands and, voila – the batting glove was born!

Now, even if you believe that story (and I don’t know if I do, as that particular story has really gained momentum in the years since Harrelson has been an announcer – in the past he said stuff like “I was in a slump and I thought it might help” when it came to why he began wearing golf gloves, even “they looked cool”), it does not mean that he invented batting gloves.

As a point of fact, he most certainly did NOT.

Ballplayers were using golf gloves for decades before Harrelson, with Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants probably being the most famous example (Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League, also wore golf gloves).

These players, though, did not wear their gloves during official baseball games.

There ARE some players close to the beginning of the 20th Century who did occasionally wear gloves during games to protect their hands.

Paul Lukas, of the great UniWatch column, detailed a few of them here, as he decidedly debunked the whole “Hawk Harrelson invented the batting glove” myth.

What IS true is that Harrelson POPULARIZED the use of the batting glove in the early 1970s, and as more and more stars got involved, the movement got the point where it is today – where basically all baseball players use batting gloves.

So Harrelson has something to be proud of when to comes to batting gloves – just not inventing them.

Thanks to Paul Lukas for his tireless uniform-related research! You’re the tops, Paul!

BASEBALL LEGEND: At least two players of the Washington Nationals wore jerseys with the team name spelled incorrectly

STATUS: True

The Washington Nationals are a baseball team that play in Washington DC. They are in the Eastern Division of the National League.

This is what their jerseys are supposed to look like…

And here is what they looked like on star players Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman in an April 17, 2009 loss to the Florida Marlins…

And no, the “O” is not hidden under the buttons…

On April 23, 2009 the Majestic Athletic company apologized to the Nationals for the error, according to ESPN.com

“All of us at Majestic Athletic want to apologize to both the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball for accidentally omitting the ‘o’ in two Nationals jerseys,” Majestic Athletic president Jim Pisani said in a statement distributed at Nationals Park on Tuesday.

“We take 100 percent responsibility for this event and we regret any embarrassment for the Nationals organization, players and fans,” the statement continued.

The normally weak-hitting Nationals (third from last in the National League in runs in 2008) actually did better on offense in 2009 (ending up JUST below the National League average), so that takes away the jokes from Washington fans who would like to say, “So THAT’s where the ‘O’ went!”

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

3 Responses to “Baseball Legends Revealed #17”

  1. You can add an update to the spelling error with the baseball jersey: the same company (Majestic) made another spelling error during the 2010 season.
    “San Francicso”

  2. Good article, thanks.

  3. Good article, thanks.

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