[Editor's Note: Paul is on vacation. Today we have an excellent feature by intern Mike Chamernik — enjoy.]
By Mike Chamernik
I played baseball in Little League and the lower levels of high school, and I’ve always worn my fielding glove the same way. I always have my left index finger exposed on the back of my glove, giving my glove a little larger of a pocket.
Actually, I should say I’ve almost always done this. For a stretch when I was nine and ten, I kept my finger inside the glove. No reason for this change other than personal preference.
I figured this must be the case throughout the baseball world, from sandlots to the pros. Sure, players have different gloves based on the positions they play, but the way they wear those gloves, with the index finger in or out (or sometimes with the finger sleeve, which is sort of in and sort of out), is just a matter of personal preference, right?
I looked at all of the photos on ESPN.com from the 45 MLB games played over the weekend of April 18-20 and tallied how the players wore their gloves. That isn’t a definitive survey method, of course — it’s just one weekend, and I could only base my findings on photos that showed the back of a player’s glove. But it’s a decent enough snapshot for our purposes. And what I found is that wearing the index finger in or out breaks down pretty rigidly depending on a player’s position in the field.
Here’s a quick summary:
|Position||Finger In||Finger Out||Finger Sleeve|
Since there were so few photos of outfielders in the games I looked at, I Googled 15 more outfielders and found that 11 went finger-in and 4 went finger-out, which pretty much confirmed the trend I had initially identified.
Why is this so? Why are catchers and infielders almost always finger-out? Why are outfielders finger-in? Why do so many pitchers use the sleeve? To find out, I spoke with some people within baseball and the equipment industry: Cody Hall, a pitcher in the Giants organization, and Lou Rusnock and Ryan Ball from the sports equipment site Sports Unlimited. Here’s what they told me:
• For catchers, it’s simple. Getting their index fingers out of the pocket gives them a little more padding and helps prevents jammed and stung fingers. Makes sense.
• Infielders are the same way. Exposing their fingers gives them a little more cushion too, and Rusnock said the exposed finger allows them to control their gloves better, which is important when transferring the ball from the glove to the hand for a throw.
• Pitchers have the most leeway with wearing their gloves based on comfort. Some use the finger sleeve, a piece of leather attached to the back of the glove, that helps to prevent tipping pitches. Ball said that the finger sleeve originated with Orel Hershiser — he liked having his finger out, but he would wiggle it when throwing a breaking ball, hence the need to hide the telltale digit.
Hall said that he knew guys in college who tipped –- they pressed their index fingers into the glove for fastballs and extended them upward for offspeed pitches, so the sleeve helped them avoid that. But the sleeve can also be just an aesthetic thing. “Some use it for straight show,” he said. “They like the look of it. They’ll actually keep their fingers in the glove and keep the finger sleeve on there [even though they're not using it].”
• Outfielders might be finger-in, but it’s not as easy as that. They’ll actually wear their gloves so that the pinkie and ring finger are together in the pinkie compartment, and their other two fingers move over one slot. This leaves the index finger slot empty, which creates a deeper pocket. Rusnock said that wearing the glove that way also raises the glove up on the hand, extending it by a quarter of an inch. “It gives them a little extra reach,” he said (click to enlarge):
Actually, here’s where my little survey breaks down. After speaking with Hall, the Giants minor leaguer, he said players across the diamond — not just outfielders, but infielders and pitchers, too –- use the two-fingers-in-the-pinkie-slot method, which Hall called “two in the pink” (insert shocker jokes here). Infielders and pitchers also expose their index fingers when doing two in the pink, so it’s tough to tell who does what just by looking at the photos.
Hall, a pitcher, does the two in the pink method himself. He began doing it after a teammate introduced him to it at the start of his minor league career. “I do it for a comfort feel,” Hall said. “That’s a big thing with a lot of guys.”
Even though outfielders and infielders wear different gloves with different functions, infielders will do the two in the pink technique with the finger exposed. A finger out lets the glove close with less pressure on the pocket. Combining that with two in the pink helps with the pocket as well. Since the fingers have shifted over one slot, it can look like the middle finger is exposed, but it’s actually the index finger:
“Most infielders on a normal routine play, they don’t catch the ball in their pocket,” Hall said. “They catch it right on their palm so they can get rid of it. They keep their finger out, from what I was told, [because] it keeps the glove wide and you can push down on that back and it keep the glove wide instead of closing it in a narrower fashion.”
Hall said some outfielders even do three in the pink, which he tried and found comfortable.
Shifting fingers is impractical with certain gloves, however. For instance, a fielder can’t do two in the pink with an exposed index finger with a glove that just has an index hole (as opposed to a wide opening above a strap) because the hole would be above an empty index finger slot. Of the game photos I saw, I don’t recall seeing any infielders with hole gloves, and I don’t recall many pitchers, either. First base was almost exclusively hole, as was catcher. Outfielders used both.
“From taking a look at the outfield gloves that we carry, it doesn’t seem that many have the finger hole,” Rusnock said. “Although there are some exceptions, including this glove or this one that have both a finger hole and an adjustable strap. Wilson and Mizuno don’t seem to use the finger hole much at all, while Louisville Slugger has both kinds in their outfield gloves, the one in the link above with the hole/strap combo and this kind without a hole.”
With so many players doing two in the pink, more gloves aren’t being used as they were intended. Equipment companies are taking note.
“I think the glove companies are constantly making adjustments to their gloves to accommodate the players’ needs,” Rusnock said. “So they’re building pockets and finger slots that make it easier to wear the glove with two fingers in the pinkie slot without having to overextend. I don’t think it’s something that they’re making a highlighted feature of the product, but they’re adjusting their designs accordingly.”
Question of the Week
Every Thursday Intern Mike Chamernik poses a uniform-related question to the readership. Here’s today’s:
What was your favorite uni set or logo when you were a kid? Not necessarily what you like now when you look back on your youth, but what looks did you prefer when you were actually an adolescent?
‘skins Watch: According to this article from NBC Washington, “(I)t might not have been the best idea for the team’s Instagram account to post a picture Tuesday chronicling the history of their cheerleading uniforms, which in the past featured fairly obvious caricatures of Native Americans.” … The Detroit News will no longer use the team name for the Washington Redskins “in routine football coverage, reflecting the growing view that the term is offensive to many Americans,” and has told its reporters to describe the NFL franchise as “Washington” or the “Washington football team.” (thanks to Mike Cole) … Since FedEx has a longstanding contractual commitment to naming rights at FedEx Field, where the ‘skins play, The National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith on Tuesday asking for his help to change the Washington NFL team’s name. … Over in Cleveland, a Cleveland-based Native American activist group says it’s planning to sue the Cleveland Indians in federal court next month for $9 billion, and “will ask for retribution dating back to 1915 when the baseball team adopted the Indians name.” … How did they arrive at the $9 billion figure? “We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering.” … This opinion piece from the Boston Herald takes a swipe at “the PC police, led by big-city white elitists,” who want to “wipe from history a multihued American past that conflicts with their monochromatic world view.” Interestingly, the author claims the “Redskins” name derives not from William “Lone Star” Dietz, who the team themselves say was the inspiration, but from King Tammany, who “looks much like the man in the Redskins logo: same distinct nose, headdress and swept-back black hair,” (thanks to John Cushing for tipping me off to the article). … This article from The Economist argues that “it is not the privilege of the powerful to dictate which words are hurtful,” while rebutting “Mr Snyder’s claim that because the name ‘Redskins’ is not intentionally cruel it should not be interpreted as cruel.” (Thanks to Mike Styczen for that one). … SportsIllustrated.com’s FanSided asks, “Now that the trademark registration has been cancelled, does that mean that the rest of the owners in the NFL will pressure Dan Snyder to finally give in?” … As reported by “Kissing Suzy Kolber,” an op-ed in The Washington Times suggests renaming the Redskins as the Reagans, “because every conservative in and around D.C. wants to rename everything for the 40th president.” (Thanks to Yusuke Toyoda).
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Today’s ticker was written and compiled by Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The Williamsport Crosscutters wore ugly Christmas sweater jerseys for a Halfway to Christmas promotion (from Patrick O’Neill). … The Nashville Sounds will wear an American flag uniform during their homestand this weekend (from Zack Bennett). … The St. Paul Saints are holding a jersey design contest. The Saints will wear the winning concept on August 8. … In the Texas League All-Star game this week, the winners of the home run derby and all-star game MVP each got championship belts (from Michael Cossey). … The Birmingham Barons held their annual Rickwood Classic yesterday, with throwback uniforms and stadium experience (from Nolan E. Jones). … The West Michigan Whitecaps will wear Storm Trooper jerseys for Star Wars Night this Saturday. … Jonathan Daniel spotted two Giants fans with World Series ring headwear. By the way, fans of the MVP Baseball video game series are well familiar with that sign. … Tim Lincecum wore a USA soccer jersey after his no-hitter yesterday (from Phil). Also spotted sporting USA colors: Hunter Pence. … Several Orioles tried on isoBLOX protective caps (from Andrew Cosentino). … New unis for East Carolina (from Leland Privott). … Diamondbacks minor leaguer Justin Gonzalez still wears his Florida State wrist brace (from Mike Davidson). … Fellow skedder Matthew Robins came across a 1974 Yankees schedule for one of their Shea Stadium seasons. … Speaking of that, I asked a bunch of MLB teams to send me a pocket schedule or two, and the envelopes they come in are nearly as cool as the schedules themselves.
Soccer News: Burnley FC has a new home kit (from Phil). … The World Cup logo looks like someone facepalming. … Jerry Kulig sends in some Brazil flag swimwear. … Tottenham Hotspur’s new jerseys were leaked (from Danny Garrison). … Old article, but here’s a history on jersey swaps (from Gregory Koch). … Adidas foresees selling eight million World Cup jerseys (from Tommy Turner). … Everton FC has a new home kit. … Neymar wore unsanctioned underpants against Cameroon and FIFA isn’t pleased (from Phil). … Here’s a chart that shows every possible outcome of the Group G matchups today (from Phil). … And a possibly easier-to-understand graphic on how the US can survive (thanks to Aram Gyan). … Also from Aram, an alternative, more American, nickname idea for the USMNT: “The Fearless P’Zones.” … The Astros are opening up Minute Maid Park early so fans can catch the US-Germany game/fill some empty seats, which is cool (and the German flag is the original Tequila sunrise) but a problem – it’s “fútbol”, not “futból”. Is this an “accent accident”, as Bvk1126 put in the comments, or maybe “diacritical disaster”?
NBA News: Here’s an article that argues that uniform ads wouldn’t be a big deal in the NBA. It’s only two paragraphs long so it doesn’t say too much, but the cases in point for the author are the bush leagues, NASCAR and European soccer. Not exactly apples to apples with the NBA. My take is that uniform ads are horrible, and my big reason is that when watching the NBA we’re already bombarded with six TV timeouts, six timeouts per team, and quarter and half breaks. We got plenty of enough advertising as it is. … It’s probably just a fan speculation (instead of an official news leak of some sort) but I can get behind the Warriors in black unis. … Last call for Bobcats merchandise. Knowing how cyclical things are, Bobcats hats and shirts will be the hip thing with the teenagers of 2024 (from Josh Claywell).
Grab Bag: Women’s blog Jezebel ranked men’s sports uniforms in order of attractiveness (from Woody Weaver). … Here’s a neat Packers-Giants preseason program from 1946 (from Phil). … New logos for Murray State (from Phil). … Rich Paloma wrote a good column about his jersey collection. … Someone mocked up a white Michigan State football helmet. … U.S. states’ license plate design has gone downhill over the last few decades (from Jason Hillyer). … Here’s a guide to horse racing colors and silks (from Caleb Weaver). … Seems like there will be a football scene in Batman vs. Superman (from Phil). … Notre Dame will unveil its new Under Armour gear on July 1 (from Warren Junium).