Being an avid baseball player, I’ve played in multiple games and have seen lots of different ways players approach their at-bats. One thing I’ve noticed is that some players will bat without a batting glove while other players swear by their batting gloves. Seeing this discrepancy can only make someone wonder, are batting gloves necessary?
In general, batting gloves are not necessary. However, batting gloves can help by being shock absorbers, improving a player’s grip, and protecting a player’s hand while swinging and running bases. Overall, batting gloves are a personal preference for each baseball player.
In fact, batting gloves were almost never used prior to the 1960s.
Batting Gloves are a Personal Preference
If we’re simply just looking to answer whether or not batting gloves are necessary, then the answer is definitely “no”. For over 80 years of baseball, batting gloves were never used. This means most of the game’s legends never word gloves. This would include players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Roberto Clemente, Wilie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
With that being said, there are some players (myself included) who get a lot of benefits from using batting gloves, which makes batting gloves a necessity for them. Let’s briefly go over why batting gloves make a difference.
What is the Purpose of Batting Gloves?
Batting Gloves Help With Grip
One of the most noticeable advantages of batting gloves is that they help a player with their bat grip. In fact, some batting gloves even have some extra stick to them to help players with their grip.
During the heat of the summer, players tend to get sweaty hands. So using batting gloves is a great way to ensure they have the proper grip and are not worried about accidentally letting go of the bat.
For a quick personal story, I love using batting gloves because my hands tend to sweat a lot. But there have been a few instances where the bat slipped out of my hands even though I was wearing batting gloves. So batting gloves help reduce the chances of the bat slipping, but I know from experience that they will not prevent it 100% of the time.
Batting Gloves Are Shock Absorbers
For those games that are played in the cold, the stinging of your hands is a real concern whenever you make contact with the ball. The stinging in the hands is due to the vibrations from the bat making contact with the ball, but batting gloves can help absorb some of that impact.
While batting gloves won’t completely get rid of the sting from the bat making contact with the baseball, it will help reduce the amount of sting a player feels.
Batting Gloves Protect a Player’s Hands
Batting gloves are great at protecting a player’s hands, both during their at-bat and while they are runners.
While batting, batting gloves will protect the hands from blisters. Anyone who has swung the bat endlessly during batting practice will know what a pain these blisters are. Batting gloves provide a barrier between the player’s hands and their bat, which will reduce the chances of getting a blister.
While running, batting gloves will protect the player’s hands when sliding for a base. I know from personal experience that it’s easy to get sliding burns on your hands while running the bases, but batting gloves have helped out tremendously with preventing those burns on my hands.
Why Do Baseball Players Take Off Their Batting Gloves?
When watching a game of baseball, you may have noticed some players will take their batting gloves off after getting a base hit. When standing on a base, they will take off their batting gloves and hold one in each one of their hands.
Baseball players take off their batting gloves to prevent their fingers from being jammed when sliding into a base. Once safely on a base, runners will take off their batting gloves and grip one in each hand by making a fist, which will protect the player’s fingers when sliding into a base.
This strategy of protecting their fingers is another great reason many baseball players use to protect themselves during the course of a game. Baseball players with jammed fingers have a difficult time hitting, fielding, and throwing, so this strategy works towards the interest of these players.
Can You Wear a Batting Glove on Your Throwing Hand?
Batting gloves are typically used by players when hitting, but there are some players who use a batting glove while fielding.
In most leagues, fielders are able to wear a batting glove on their throwing hand while pitchers can not. It is against the rules for pitchers because a glove can make it more difficult for the hitter to see the pitch. However, there are no rules preventing fielders from wearing a batting glove on their throwing hand.
Lots of people would argue that wearing a batting glove on the throwing hand will negatively impact your throwing abilities. However, this is most likely a personal preference for fielders.
Even some professional quarterbacks wear gloves on their throwing hand and are able to be successful. So one could argue that baseball players should have an easier time throwing a baseball with a glove than a quarterback throwing a football with a glove.
But when it comes down to it, if it’s a cold day and a fielder would prefer to wear a glove on their throwing hand, there are no rules preventing them from doing that.
When Were Batting Gloves Invented?
From the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website, the history of batting gloves is murky, hard to track, and filled with vague references of a batting glove trend dating as far back as the 1800s. So it can be difficult to say when exactly batting gloves were invented.
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, batting gloves were already well established in 1890 in the game of cricket, but Ken Harrelson is credited as inventing the batting glove in 1968 because he was the first major-leaguer to wear batting gloves in an actual regular-season baseball game.
Turns out, batting gloves were worn prior to Ken Harrelson, but they were not used during a regular season game.
A Brief History of Batting Gloves
Batting gloves may have started out in 1901 according to an article from Peter Morris. In that article, Hughie Jennings is said to have experimented with using batting gloves.
Moving forward, a 1932 Sporting News article refers to batting gloves as “shock-absorbers” used by two injured players – Lefty O’Doul and Johnny Federick. Both players used a form of batting gloves due to hand injuries because they needed some extra padding when gripping the bat.
In the late 40’s and early ’50s, Bobby Thomson used gloves for batting practice and spring training. Instead of batting gloves, he was given a pair of golf gloves from professional golfer Danny Lawler.
In 1965, there was an article about Dick Green that referenced innovative equipment in baseball, which included the batting glove.
It wasn’t until September 4, 1968, when Ken Harrelson wore a golf glove in a regular-season baseball game. This was the first time anyone had worn a glove to bat during a regular-season game and the trend caught on soon after that with ads promoting batting gloves for kids in 1969.
If you’d like to find out more about the early history of batting gloves, please check out the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s article.