WATERLOO, Iowa -- Most current baseball fans know Ken "Hawk" Harrelson as the colorful color commentator for the Chicago White Sox. Harrelson was also an avid golfer who served as a platoon player with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963.
According to an MLB.com story, that year he had played 27 holes of golf prior to a game against the New York Yankees in which he wasn't slated to compete. A change in starting pitchers forced him into the lineup.
As legend has it, Harrelson helped introduce tight-fitting hitting gloves into baseball when he realized he had a golf glove in his back pocket and put it on to gain protection from the blister suffered during batting practice. He slugged two home runs that game.
Eventually, glove manufacturer Franklin asked Harrelson to endorse batting gloves. By the 1980s, football receivers were using tight-fitting gloves, as well. Odell Beckham Jr.'s glove-aided fingertip catch provided one of the highlights of the past NFL season.
While golf may be the first sport to utilize tight-fitting gloves for protection and improved grip, with FootJoy research revealing origins dating back to 1898, the gloves didn't become popular with most touring players until the 1950s and '60s. Original golf gloves were fingerless without an adjustable backing.
"Back when I used to caddie in the late '60s, they came out with a Velcro closing," Irv Warren golf professional Andy Devine recalls. "After that every glove went to Velcro and they still use them today. You can adjust the tightness. Some don't want them tight, some want them very tight."
As with any golf product, gloves have continued to evolve. Colors have expanded from black to virtually any hue a player wants. Rain-grip gloves and winter gloves are available, as well.
"There's a wide variety of gloves," Waterloo Golf Headquarters owner Mike Schuchmann said. "We've got them anywhere from $6.99 synthetic lightweight glove and then you can go all the way to the colorful G/FORE gloves and they're $37 apiece. They're lightweight full leather versus synthetic."
Former Golf Channel "Big Break" contestant and current touring professional Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey helped start a trend by wearing a golf glove on his dominant hand. Schuchmann says he's noticed more customers starting to buy golf gloves in pairs.
"He just has a better grip, he feels, when he's wearing those two gloves," Devine said. "It's all confidence. Those guys swing so hard that they better have a good grip on it."
Golf gloves don't last forever. Those made out of the synthetic material have to be replaced more often than their leather counterparts, as a combination of sweat and heat can wear the material down.
"In your hand there's an oil that comes off when you perspire," Devine said. "It gets in those gloves. If you play in them and sweat in them, the next day that perspiration is sucked into the glove. After a while they get so hard that they're no good any more. Then it's time for a new glove."
About the only stroke a golf glove isn't used for nowadays is putting.
"I don't know a lot of people that don't wear a glove that play," Schuchmann said. "It definitely helps when you get out there in the rain and you don't have new grips on (your clubs).
"I'd say almost 95 percent of the PGA Tour pros take their glove off when they putt just for that extra feel."
This article was written by Nick Petaros from Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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