Back in late May, I Ticker-mentioned that reader Jameson Adams had paid a leatherworking company to turn an old baseball glove into a wallet. The company that did that work is called Little Freddie’s, and it’s run by a guy named Fred Storms. I was curious about the story behind this enterprise, so I asked Fred to do an email interview, the results of which you can read below:
Uni Watch: Tell me a bit about yourself. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living (when you’re not doing Little Freddie’s)?
Fred Storms: I’m 52 years old and reside in Newport News, Virginia. I currently work as a Soft Goods Research and Development Supervisor for a shooting/tactical gear company. I grew up in Brewster, New York, and spent young days playing sports, especially baseball, with my Dad. He was a Dodgers fan and I was a Yankees fan (1977-1978 was an interesting baseball time for us).
UW: What’s your background in leatherworking? How did you get started in it?
FS: I spent 24 years in the United States Air Force, working as a Survival Equipment Specialist (parachute rigger). This is where I learned to sew. My first job out of the Air Force was working for a private contractor in Washington, DC, where we worked on all the dignitary jets at Andrews Air Force Base. I did a lot of leather work there, including work on Air Force One. There are some seasoned veterans there willing to share their secrets, and they showed me how to sew leather. This is where I first enhanced my skills, and the rest has been trial, error, and experimentation.
UW: How and when did you get the idea of making leather goods out of old baseball gloves, and how and when did you then turn that idea into a business?
FS: A guy at work asked me one day if I could make a cell phone case from an old leather glove, and I did it. So I started making Blackberry cases and even figured out how to use a magnet to turn the phone to hibernate mode when inserted into the case. From there it was iPhone cases, magnetic wallets, credit card wallets, etc. We worked together for a while but he was relocated and I just continued to grow the business. I started selling on eBay and it went very well, so I decided to do my own website and that’s where I’m at currently.
UW: How many items (wallets, money clips, etc.) have you made over the years?
FS: About 250 to 300.
UW: Do people usually send you a specific glove that they want you to use, or do you have a supply of vintage gloves that you use, or what?
FS: I have a supply of vintage gloves that I can use, or people can send specific gloves to me. Recently a customer sent me a Dale Murphy signature glove to make a wallet [that was Uni Watch reader Jameson Adams — PL]. From what I heard, he tweeted Dale Murphy about his wallet and got a positive response. Another reader sent a Brooks Robinson glove.
UW: What are some of the most unusual customer requests you’ve gotten?
FS: Nothing really unusual, but I have made some pocket pistol holsters.
UW: Any other interesting stories or anecdotes relating to Little Freddie’s?
FS: I made over 20 wallets for a fan group of a high-profile jam band. Each wallet had the band patch and all were different.
UW: How long does it take you to make a Little Freddie’s item?
FS: All are different, but I can usually make eight to ten over a weekend, depending on complexity.
UW: Many of us think of a baseball glove as a very sentimental, almost sacred object. Is it emotionally difficult to cut one of them apart?
FS: I always ask myself that same question. But I look at some of the gloves that I get and they are in horrible shape. I breathe new life into them. I clean, condition, oil, and polish every glove item before I send it out. After the wallet is complete it now a new object, just as sacred as the glove had been.
UW: Are there any differences in the leather used by different glove companies? In other words, is a Rawlings glove different to work with than, say, a Wilson glove?
FS: I’ve found it’s not a company thing but a time thing. Older gloves have better leather. Leather gloves from 1960s and older are the best to work with. Best color, best leather.
UW: Do you make items from other types of leather, or only from baseball gloves?
FS: I have made some items from leather footballs. I haven’t tried any other type of leather but have been asked about boxing gloves and hockey gloves.
UW: How would you like to grow the business in the future? Any special plans?
FS: I’m trying to grow it little by little. I’m hoping this interview will get me some exposure and new customers. The next big initiative is updating the website and doing more marketing. I’m hoping to grow it enough to use it as my retirement income.
Very cool. Fred sent me a few sample items, and I have to say they’ve very, very nice. A good project, run by a good guy — I hope some of you will check out his services.
Just give me all your money already: Here are some ways you can
subsidize my summer vacation and underwrite my cat food budget support Uni Watch:
• If you’ve been thinking about signing up for a membership card, now is a good time, because we have just a few open slots on the current batch of card designs, which means the next few people who sign up won’t have to wait long at all to receive their cards. As always, you can sign up here.
• In a perfect world, you’d be able to buy these T-shirts in the Uni Watch shop as well. Alas, this is a very imperfect world. Still, one can dream of a more perfect world, can’t one? Of course one can.
Research Query: Reader Joe Race is working on a guest-written Uni Watch entry about unusual nuances, quirks, imperfections, and obstructions at MLB ballparks, such as the ladder on the Green Monster. In Joe’s words:
Most sports require uniform dimensions for their playing surfaces. Baseball, however, allows for a certain type of design and expression at the outer end of each playing field, allowing for hills with flagpoles, overhangs from upper decks, and other curious designs that we notice and remember. If you know of some MLB ballpark quirks, please submit them directly to me.
If this project goes well, Joe will expand it to include old ballparks and the minor leagues.
’Skins Watch: Eni Faleomavaega, the Congressional delegate from American Samoa, spoke out against the ’Skins name yesterday morning on the floor of the House of Representatives. You can see video of his speech, which runs a little over four minutes, here.
(My thanks to Jason M. for bringing Faleomavaega’s speech to my attention.)
PermaRec update: Two letters that were mailed from Italy during World War II and have just now reached their intended recipient are the subject of the latest entry on the Permanent Record Blog.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Louisiana Tech has changed the “T” on its football helmet from white to red. In addition, the Bulldogs will be making an announcement today about an alternate helmet that they’ll be wearing for their Sept. 28 game against Army … Alt jersey news for the Sabres and Wild, along with some other NHL uni tidbits, here (from Mike McBride). … Rather glaring mistake on Florida State’s ACC championship rings. … Check out this poster showing over 100 different sneakers (big thanks to Ryan Connelly). … Love this old Tigers placemat. I’m not familiar with that logo showing the cartoon tiger with the bat in his mouth, but Dan Kennedy says it was commonly seen on Tigers TV broadcasts back in the day. … Here’s what Tiger Woods will be wearing at the British Open (thanks, Phil). … Also from Phil: Players in the MLS All-Star Game, to be played in Kansas City on July 31, will wear “Don’t Cross the Line” patches, to promote the league’s commitment to diversity and opposition to discrimination, which is a fancy way of saying they’d appreciate it if soccer players and fans would please not behave like flaming racists. … As you’ve probably heard, Manny Ramirez is now playing in the minors. What you might not have heard is that he happens to be on a team that has a mandatory stirrups policy — but not, unfortunately, a “no baggy jerseys” policy (from James Poisso). … Andrea Bargnani, newly acquired by the Knicks, will wear No. 77 (from Robert Silverman). … Here’s a really great photo of Chris Wondolowski — the soccer player who was victimized by Tuesday night’s NOB typo — sharing a postgame laugh with USA Soccer’s embarrassed equipment director, Jesse Bignami (from Jason M). … Meanwhile, Wondo’s misspelled jersey has been acquired by comedian Drew Carey in return for two charitable donations. Wondo got to choose the charities, and one of his choices was the N7 Fund, which supports sports in Native American and Aboriginal communities. Why did he choose that? Because Wondo is Native American himself. Wonder what he thinks of the ’Skins name. … Nigerian soccer player Obafemi Martins has upholstered his dining room chairs with his own jerseys (from Bill Radocy). … The Heartland Conference (D3) is holding a football helmet bracket vote (from Jonathan Mayer). … “Ads for Army football have started popping up on MetroNorth trains,” says Christian Eidt. “Note the jersey and the helmet do not share the same uni number.” … Here’s a soccer quiz where you have to guess the year/season of each photo, so you basically have to go by the uniforms (from Sean Walsh). … New football helmet decal for the New Mexico Military Institute (from Jordan Marquez). … A reader who didn’t give his real name asks an intriguing question: “Has the average uniform number on Major League Baseball teams shot way up in recent years?” In other words, are more players wearing higher numbers? Anyone want to crunch the data? … Most photos of Braves farmhand Connor Lien show him wearing one batting glove. But he went bare-handed last night (from Adam Heinsfurther). … Here is the proposed uni for the Bluegrass Warhorses, an indoor football team based in Lexington, Kentucky. “The team was apparently formed in May and has been having tryouts recently,” says Josh Claywell. “They are the first indoor team in Lexington since the Kentucky Horseman folded in 2009.” … An illustrator named Steve Welsh is doing a series of 26 soccer-centric illos, each pertaining to a different letter of the alphabet. The results are spectacular — don’t miss (big thanks to Trevor Williams). … Matt Garza’s gray jersey and gray pants again looked mismatched on Monday night. That’s the second time in a row this has happened, although it was once again more apparent on TV than in wire photos. I’ll try to find out what’s up (screen shot by JD Vercett). … Why I love Uni Watch: I woke up this morning to find the following email from Matt Moschella, which had come in while I was asleep: “Withrow from the Dodgers is wearing #36’s helmet in the 12th. Can’t grab a screenshot because I’m three deep at a bar. Hopefully someone else can, but I know its 2am on the east coast.” So I went to the game video, and sure enough, Chris Withrow, who’s No. 44, was wearing Matt Magill’s helmet. Thanks for the tip, Matt! … And we conclude with something pretty awesome: an animated history of typography. Dig (courtesy of Gretchen Mittelstaedt; if you don’t see the video embedded below, click here):