Stark: The history of ‘glove-talking’ in baseball

From SABR member Jayson Stark at on August 22, 2013:

Once, there was a time in baseball when gloves were just gloves, and talk was just talk, and it was actually possible to employ one without the other.

So much for those days.

Now, in this neurotic age we live in, it’s apparently no longer safe or feasible for anyone to carry on a conversation on a baseball field without placing a big old hunk of leather — among other obstacles — in front of his mouth.

You see it every night. The scene goes something like this:

A pitcher — let’s say Junichi Tazawa of the Boston Red Sox — runs into trouble out there.
So …

Catcher, pitching coach and interpreter scramble to the mound. Pitching coach talks into his sleeve, in English. Interpreter talks into his hand, in Japanese. Pitcher talks back into his glove, in Japanese. Interpreter talks back into his hand, in English. Catcher talks into his glove and mask.

And they actually understand each other?

“Oh yeah,” Red Sox catcher David Ross said. “It’s a special language all its own. Everybody speaks glove.”

Boy, that’s for sure. And they don’t just speak it. They’re flat-out addicted to glove — because everybody does it these days.

“Here’s what I’m waiting for,” Chicago Cubs broadcast-witticist Jim Deshaies said. “The manager goes out to argue a call. Then he and the umpire both whip their gloves out and start screaming into their gloves.”

Hey, at this rate, would it shock you if that really happened? Wouldn’t stun us in the least. So as we’ve watched this glove-talking epidemic spread across the baseball landscape the past few years, we’ve asked ourselves many times:

How did it come to this? Does glove-talking actually accomplish anything? Are there lip-readers — or possibly CIA agents — in every dugout?

Are scouts watching? Are hitters watching? Are the video machines rolling? And what’s glove got to do with it, anyway?

So we set out to dig for these important answers.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 22, 2013. Last Updated: August 22, 2013.