Baseball is in Dave Jackson’s blood. His father played for the minor league St. Louis Cardinals from 1949 to 1951.
“I was born in St. Louis,” Jackson said.
He played in Little League and continued to enjoy the sport through recreational leagues until a shoulder injury sidelined him six years ago at the age of 60.
Jackson clung to his Little League gloves but didn’t start collecting them in earnest until 1987.
“I don’t collect autographs, cards, balls or bats,” he said. “Bats break, balls get lost, but a kid never gives up his glove. You take that with you as you grow up.
The 400 gloves in his collection span the late 1800s through the 1960s, with a few later designs in the mix.
One of his favorites is a 1920 Spaulding, the leather scarred with the creases of age and hundreds of takes.
“I call it ‘Grandpa’s Face,'” Jackson said.
One of his oldest gloves is a catcher’s glove made by the AJ Reach Company in Philadelphia in 1891. Its distinctive hook-and-eye lacing is a feature of gloves made before the turn of the century, and its well worn has a greenish tint. . With a cost of $7.50 in 1891, it would have been an expensive investment at the time.
Jackson pointed to a name engraved on the glove.
“Who was Gary McMillan?” he wondered. “How many amazing plays has he made with this glove?”
Like many collectors, Jackson is thrilled when he finds an item still in its original box, such as a field glove made by OK (Ohio Kentucky) MFG Co.
“It’s rare to find them with the box,” he said. “That’s kinda cute.”
His favorite gloves date back to the 1940s.
“The leather is so rich and creamy and the gloves are so plush!” he said.
For example, a vintage Nokona made in Texas in the 1940s is stuffed with extra padding. Likewise, a MacGregor Goldsmith with a button on the back still looks solid and the warm patina of a Firestone seems to shine through.
“They were so well done,” Jackson said. “I can put one on and imagine someone doing a life-changing take.”
Its collection traces the evolution of the glove. Jackson presented a black 1925 model.
“It’s flat,” he said. “You had to use both hands to catch a ball. They started developing the pocket in the 1940s and then you could just play one handed.
Jackson scours eBay, garage sales and antique shows for his finds, but an unusual addition came from a chance encounter at a local brewery.
“I met Don Gordon,” he said.
Gordon pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians and told Jackson he had a glove he might be interested in. The glove has a label that reads “USSR Leningrad”.
“I bought it from him,” Jackson said.
His most unique and expensive acquisitions by far are two gloves found in a trunk in Norway in 2017. The owner of a building in Trondheim discovered an old, dusty chest that had remained closed, possibly for a century. Inside was an assortment of immaculate sporting goods, including rare circa 1920 baseball gloves.
They were made by Draper and Maynard, a New Hampshire-based sports supply company from the 1880s through the 1930s.
Dubbed the greatest baseball glove find from before the 1940s, the collection sparked intense bidding on eBay.
Jackson was happy to land two gloves with their blank price tags still attached, but the biggest prize was out of his league – a Babe Ruth facsimile signature glove that fetched $11,600.
But value and rarity don’t drive Jackson’s collection — Americana and nostalgia do.
“Baseball is the American sport and when you were a kid your baseball glove was your best friend,” he said. “He went everywhere with you and rode on the handlebars of your bike.”
He picked up a glove and smiled.
“Each of them was someone’s pride and joy.”