An Homage to the A2000
Read a lifelong A2000 devotee's retrospective on 60 years with his glove.
By Dick Schwartz
“It's your glove, your baseball glove. It's got a soul, a memory all its own, and a future that never fades because it has never let go of the grasp the past has on you and so many others.” - Mike Barnicle
Baseball lovers are always telling stories about their new, vintage or alas, their lost but never-to-be forgotten baseball or softball gloves. For me and countless others — 17, 27, 47 or 74-year-olds — that means stories about our “top of the heap, king of the hill, number one” A2000.
The glove for the ages.
In a 2008 Esquire magazine article, “Esquire Endorses: The Wilson A2000 Baseball Glove,” writer Scott Raab calls it “…the greatest single piece of sporting equipment ever built.”
Since 1957, Little Leaguers to pros — and aging codgers like me — would all agree hands down. Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett once had this to say about the A2000: “As a kid, if you had a Wilson A2000 you had it going on, you know?” He was still playing with an A2000 three-plus decades, 10 All-Star Games and two World Series rings later.
The glove for the ages.
So, down to business. It all begins with breaking in your new glove and sculpting a perfect fit, no matter your age. It takes grunt work, devotion, and loving care — in equal amounts. And scrimping won’t do.
(I have fond memories of the 12-year-old me breaking in my first A2000 – a Luis Aparicio model. I describe them in another piece that appears on this blog, “The Legend of the Baseball Glove”.)
And now, six decades later, Bruce McLean, my life-long friend, and I are breaking in our brand-new 2021 A2000s, his Clayton Kershaw CK22 GM and my Copper and Blonde 1789.
Bruce prefers a straightforward method. He wears it pretty much constantly and pounds (and pounds and pounds…) the heck out of it with his fist and a baseball. And me? Using a slightly more complex method, I twist, pull and stretch my 1789 to soften and sculpt it with generous applications of my own tried-and-true concoction of glove oil, spit, elbow grease and yes, sleeping with it under my pillow. And all the while, because your baseball glove “has never let go of the grasp the past has on you,” I think back to moments way back when that mattered — and still do:
August 22, 1962: In the ninth inning, I’m clutching my A2000 in the third deck watching the Twins’ Jack Kralick pitch his no-hitter. Baseball lovers will tell you they’ve hit the jackpot witnessing one. So when first baseman Vic Power snags the final out with a cocky snap of his glove, I let fly a volley of joyful expletives including, “Holy ****! He ******* did it!” It’s the first time Dad hears his son swear. He doesn’t bat an eye. But cheers turn to tears when we get back to our car. No A2000. In my uninhibited jubilation, I’ve left it in the ballpark.
I never knew my dad could outrun me. But he does, non-stop through the parking lot and back up the ramps to the third deck. There, under my seat, only a bit worse for wear among soggy peanut shells and mustard-stained hot dog wrapping, it lies. My sense of relief (and guilt) is indescribable.
That same summer, I’m on the road with Dad for his job. Nearing Milwaukee he surprises me with tickets to a Cardinals - Braves game. It’s “Camera Night.” We don’t have a camera, but we walk onto the infield anyway. And no one stops me when I wander into the Braves’ vacant dugout. Out of nowhere, it seems, the great third baseman Eddie Mathews sits down next to me. He asks me who’s my favorite ballplayer. I’m stunned, near tears and of course, tongue-tied. But Mathews rescues me when he takes my Luis Aparicio A2000 from me without asking and puts it on. “I’ll bet it’s Aparicio,” he says.
October 6, 1965: Dad hustles me out of the service at our synagogue. With a wink and a grin, he surreptitiously pulls out from his breast pocket two $8.00 tickets for Game One of the World Series - Twins vs. Dodgers. As we speed off to Metropolitan Stadium, he reaches under the car seat and hands me my A2000. Do I care one iota about the odd looks I receive at the ballpark for wearing a fancy blue suit and tie and clutching a baseball glove? Of course not. I’m at the World Series with the two things that matter most to me: My dad and my A2000.
How amazingly vivid those images come to life while I break in my latest A2000 now. So is that classic Wilson Sporting Goods advertisement in Boys’ Life magazine that started my love affair with the A2000, the one trying to charm and tantalize 12-year-old with:
“ARE YOU READY FOR A MAJOR LEAGUE GLOVE?”
You bet I was — and still am.
I meet up with Bruce at the Fern Hill School ball field. This time some buddies will join us with their own worn, storied gloves. Even more will join us next time. And more after that. And each time we’ll show off the progress we’ve made breaking in our A2000s like the proud (and smug) adolescents we once were. Some things don’t change.
Bruce declares that even though our playing days are long past, his new A2000 CK22 will “live on.” He’ll pass it along to his son, who (like father-like-son) is also a southpaw. I’ve bequeathed my 1789 to my two-year-old grandson. Soon I’ll get another A2000 for his soon-to-arrive baby brother. That way they’ll each have their own when my son — their dad — decides the time is right.
In Don DeLillo’s unforgettable story, “Pafko at the Wall,” about Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, a man around my son’s age says to a kid he’s just met sitting next to him at the Polo Grounds as they witness the now-legendary Brooklyn Dodger - New York Giant postseason game unfold:
“Next time you hear someone say they’re in seventh heaven, think of this.”
Or for me, this: It’s an unseasonably warm and sun-drenched late autumn day. Back on the Fern Hill School ball field, I laugh, tease and reminisce with Troup, Jaffe, McLean, and Mileski, buddies I’ve known since childhood while we play catch, still so natural and rhythmic for us after these many, many years.
“You’re never too old to play catch.”
Some things don’t change.
On my hand, my A2000 feels like my first one did 60 years ago. Perfect.
All text and images courtesy of Dick Schwartz