Q. Why do ballplayers keep playing with their batting gloves? It is annoying and stupid and delays the game. I am 84 years old and have quit watching due to this constant adjustment of the glove's straps. Also, why do they have those ropes around their neck that they keep poking back in their shirt?
-- Walter Gaultney, of St. Jacob
A. Rest assured you're in august company when you complain about players fidgeting with their gloves and other apparel.
When Vin Scully was asked why the average length of games had mushroomed from 2:25 in 1963 to the Yankees' funerary pace of 3:31 in 2007, the legendary broadcaster didn't hesitate.
"I partly blame it on Velcro (found on batting gloves)," he told the Boston Globe last year. "In the old days, there was no nonsense, no fussing."
Now in the players' defense, I know I sometimes fasten my bicycling gloves too tightly so I may have to stop to loosen them so I don't cut blood flow to my fingers. Besides, batting gloves aren't the only things slowing games appreciably. There's also an average of 60 percent more pitching changes per game since 1963 (4.8 to 7.7), more strikeouts and deep counts, and, of course, longer commercial breaks.
But I agree -- watching batters play with their gloves and chains every pitch or two can drive me crazy. Surely, after wearing them for even a few games, you'd think they could find their comfort zone more quickly.
Still, if I had given up baseball the first time a player donned a glove, I never would have become a fan. According to some historians, that honor goes to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants, who wore golf gloves during spring training in 1949.
Others point to the Splendid Splinter -- Ted Williams -- who tried them during batting practice in August 1953 after he returned to Boston from Marine duty in Korea.
David Cataneo, who wrote "I Remember Ted Williams," says Williams' personal manager, Fred Corcoran, was watching Williams take batting practice one day as he worked to get back his eye. Corcoran, who also managed golfing greats Sam Snead and Babe Zaharias, noticed that Williams was developing blisters from his extra work, so he handed him a pair of golf gloves. (You can buy a poster of Williams putting one on at allposters.com.)
However, the first player to wear them in a game may have been Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson, who tried them during the 1964 season with the Kansas City Athletics, according to baseball-library.com.
During an interview on the Kansas City Royals blog, Harrelson said he had played 27 holes of golf one day because he thought he'd be sitting out that night. But when the Yankees switched their starting pitcher from righty Jim Bouton to lefty Whitey Ford, Harrelson was penciled in.
To ease his golfing blister, Harrelson put on his golf gloves and slammed two home runs, quieting the merciless ribbing he said he was taking from the Yankees' bench. In that sophomore season, his average dropped 36 points to .194, but bounced back to .238 in 1965 and he hit .305 with K.C. in 1967. (By the way, Rusty Staub also receives credit for being an early proponent.)
In any case, batting gloves seemed to become an integral part of baseball in the early '80s when Philadelphia slugger Mike Schmidt spearheaded efforts by Franklin Sports to become the MLB glove kingpin. Today, Franklin's products remain the official gloves of the MLB, according to its Web site, franklinsports.com.
Pro gloves are made of a high-quality material that has been stamped with a design using heat and high pressure called embossed leather. They are made to fit the contour of a batter's hands and absorb moisture while drying quickly. And, of course, they have those adjustable Velcro straps that annoy you so much.
The benefits are many, players say. They prevent blisters, improve grip, absorb shock and keep hands warm during those chilly days of spring and fall. They also can provide some protection while sliding.
But they don't come cheap. At Franklin Sports, big-name gloves -- including a Yadier Molina -- are $75. That makes those $40 Phiten necklaces (which the Japanese company says are supposed to increase energy and reduce injury) at mlb.com look like a bargain. For the record, pitching ace Randy Johnson reportedly found the necklaces on a tour of Japan in 2001, and they've been the rage ever since.
As a boy, what future president worked as a barker during summers at the Slippery Gulch Carnival in Prescott, Ariz.?
Answer to Sunday's trivia: When Brian Wilson said in 1965 that he no longer was going to tour with the Beach Boys, he was replaced by a still largely unknown singer by the name of Glen Campbell. But when Campbell started to make it big himself, he left after three months and was replaced by Bruce Johnston. Johnston, along with founding member Mike Love, will take the stage Sept. 19 at the Bicentennial Oktoberfest Celebration in Belleville.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.