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Baseball Analysis  A. C. Haeffner

I wrote this a decade ago - a tribute to an old, old acquaintance.


By A.C. Haeffner

Age had gotten the better of my old friend, and so it was time for retirement.

It's a sad day when an old friend can no longer cut it - when productivity and usefulness are things of the past.

But it happens, and hard choices have to be made.

So the other day, I put my friend - my 1961 Rawlings Warren Spahn 300-model baseball glove - on the shelf with my other sports memorabilia and went out and bought a space-age mitt.

What I bought was something called an XG-700 produced by an outfit called Regent. Like my Spahnie, it's got cowhide in it, but a large portion of it is woven nylon. Unlike Spahnie, which is the traditional tan color, this thing is jet black.

And unlike Spahnie, it has no heft to let me know it's on my hand. It's so lightweight it practically raises my arm without any effort on my part.

The thing seems to work pretty well, what with its sonar and suction devices homing in on and grabbing any ball within hailing distance. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But it does grab and hold just about anything thrown or hit my way.

I guess I should be pleased with that, but somehow, somehow …

Well, it's just not the same.

Spahnie was the third glove I ever owned, coming after a little boy's first baseman's mitt that suited me when I was 5 or 6 years old, and another Rawlings glove that carried me through my T-ball days and first three years of Little League.

I still have that first Rawlings mitt, relegated to the boxes moved from apartment to apartment and home to home through the years and occasionally brought out when an extra glove is needed for a local pickup game of softball.

But that glove is more a curiosity than anything; it never had the soul of Spahnie.

I initially found Spahnie among the gloves hanging on display in a sports shop in downtown Birmingham, Michigan, when I was 12. I used to love to look at the gloves in that shop, and on that day caught my mother in a generous mood. She had stopped in there with me to buy something for one of my brothers, though I don't remember what; perhaps I never knew what, my attention being focused as it was on that glove rack - and in particular on that Spahn glove.

"Can I try it on?" I asked Vince, the shop's proprietor.

Vince, a kindly guy with a salt-and-pepper crew-cut, looked over from where he was helping my mom, and smiled.

"Sure," he said. "Try 'em all."

But I had eyes only for that one. It was, after all, named after a man who had just won his 300th ballgame for the Milwaukee Braves. And it was a pitcher's model, which suited this Little League hurler just fine.

It was a bit too big for me, but that didn't matter. The glove seemed to talk to me. I could almost hear it say, "You need me, boy. Convince your mother. Make her see the need."

I don't know why, but it didn't take much to convince her. A couple of well-placed, whiny "pleases" seemed to do the trick. I thought maybe, just maybe, that glove was talking to her, too.

So I took it home with me, oiled it, put a hardball in it and wrapped twine around it so it would develop the proper pocket, and placed it by my pillow at night. Soon, it was all I wanted it to be.

Those who have never played baseball would probably fail to understand the attachment that a boy (or a man, for that matter) feels toward his glove. So be it.

But the fact is, that glove was with me through a year of Little League, through Babe Ruth League, through high school baseball, through college intramurals and, after I started working for a living, in some of those softball leagues that pop up in every city.

It was with me when I pitched well, when I was humiliated by ineptitude, when I suffered a torn rotator cuff, and when I got my arm back a few years later. It's been with me through two marriages, three kids and assorted moves.

It has been many years since I kept it next to my pillow, but I've always seemed to know where it was; could grab it at a moment's notice, a moment's need.

Spahnie is old and cracked now, too many years and too many games and too much exposure to the elements finally sapping it of its strength.

It has earned its retirement.

But I still know where it is, and plan - every so often on my way past the memorabilia shelf - to reach over and touch it, for luck.

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