In late winter 1964, an advertisement in Boy’s Life magazine for the one-and-only Wilson Sporting Goods A2000 baseball glove beckoned me and kids like me in love with baseball.
The ad practically dared us to “Tell your dad to help you select a Wilson A2000 at your sporting goods store.”
Of course, I did. I pointed out to him that if he really, truly wanted a star ballplayer for a son, the A2000 was a must. And “by the way, Dad, it says right here that Killebrew and Allison play with A2000s.”
“Too expensive. Nothing wrong with the one you have,” he said, referring to my Woolworth’s brand so-called “pro model” glove, the one that looked like Mom’s oven mitt.
But it was common knowledge that Dad’s winterish mood thawed as each Minnesota Twins Opening Day neared. (He loved baseball maybe as much as I did). I think that’s why on the March morning of my birthday he surprised me with $36.50 in cash, another 20 cents for city bus fare (round trip) and a note for the school attendance lady excusing me from school after lunch period.
My destination: Al Berman’s A and B Sporting Goods in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.
The way I remember it, umpteen beautiful baseball gloves were perfectly aligned along a back wall. A sign read, “Choose the one that’s right for you!” I made a beeline for the array of A2000s, trying on each one over and over. Finally, as late afternoon shadows darkened Hennepin Avenue, I left A and B Sporting Goods wearing the “Luis Aparicio” model with its “snap action” and “deep well pocket.” I had no need for the box it came in.
Forging the perfect pocket of my A2000 was a joyful obsession. By day I kneaded into the stiff cowhide a concoction of Dads’ Barbasol, Mom’s petroleum jelly and backyard mud (bedewed with endless shots of saliva) and pummeled the pocket with my fist. By night, I slept with it under my pillow.
On the first day of Little League practice, I stood (smugly) in center field wearing my A2000, “ready to make impossible catches look easy,” as the ad guaranteed.
For three decades the glove stuck with me through the highs and lows of summer ball, high school, a futile attempt to walk on a college team and years of middle-age slow-pitch softball. Into its fourth decade, once in a blue moon I’d dig out my now-vintage glove from the pile of family tennis racquets, hockey sticks, Rollerblades, soccer balls, skateboards, Wiffle balls and Frisbees and make my young son play catch with me, much to his impatient chagrin.
As we grew older, while he was off adventuring with his buddies, I’d sometimes sit in the backyard sitting with my A2000 and sip a beer until those solitary moments faded away.
Then, almost 50 years after my pilgrimage to A and B Sporting Goods, I had an urge to play catch again because, well, just because. I searched everywhere for my glove — in the basement, attic, closets, garage, under the beds. It was gone. That’s all I know.
It’s not the end of the world when a lifelong keepsake goes missing. But it sure hurts.
On the sly, I’d drive to a sporting good store and try on the latest A2000s. I thought about replacing my vanished glove with one of these flawless beauties, but each time felt foolish trying them on — a man way-past middle age — and I left barehanded.
Fast-forward to last fall at my 50th high school reunion. I’m telling my tale to Bobby, a former teammate. He urges me to look instead at the vintage-like gloves for sale online like he had done. “There’s always a bunch of them, but take it from me, they sell fast.”
I see a timeworn A2000 that reminds me of my “Luis Aparicio.” You can tell it has lived a storied life. Someone (a kid ages ago?) branded into its battered leather, “Tumbleweed.”
I e-mail Bobby a photo of the glove. He replies, “When you reach our age, you get to do cockamamie things without having to explain yourself. Buy it before someone else does.”
I did. Tumbleweed is delivered to me (from Texas!) just before the pandemic hits. I tell some buddies about it. Jerry says, “How old are you? 12?” But another pal, Bruce Mclean, still has his one-and-only glove. He recently has had it restrung at a shoe repair store. (Curious to meet a cobbler who refurbishes baseball gloves, I visit his shop. He says he enjoys restoring them “for guys like you.”)
Shortly before the stay-at-home order starts, Bruce and I play catch twice. Our haughty throwing motions we honed as kids haven’t changed. Neither has the rhythmic sound of the baseball smacking into our gloves. Or the ageless, simple pleasure of tossing a ball back and forth while we talk about Opening Day.
We plan to play catch again soon.
Dick Schwartz lives in Minneapolis.