When the weather turned cooler, I vowed to clean out the garage, an intermittent and tedious chore. There are a few things I never throw out—old music arrangements, my college portable typewriter, art, paint for retouching rooms in the house. And, most certainly, I am resolute when it comes to my darkened, weathered baseball mitt.
It took me a long to save up my allowance to buy it. I was probably 9 or 10 and enamored with the Hollywood Stars baseball team that appeared on our black and white TV set several nights a week. I knew all their names and their batting averages but I wanted to play with them. I was athletic, coordinated and loved the game. Why couldn’t I?
I was sternly told girls don’t play baseball. They aren’t allowed in Little League and they most definitely would never play in the major leagues, not even the Pacific Coast League that housed the Hollywood Stars. I was devastated.
I entreated my father to play catch with me in the backyard when he’d come home from work. And after each session, I would get out the can of Glovoleum and oil up my mitt, keeping it ready in case I got a chance to play. I loved the smell of it, the feel of the soft leather. It was comforting and soporific.
It was a first baseman’s trapper model, the kind Jack Phillips used when he played for the Stars. It was bulky and a rich chocolate brown, even before all the layers of Glovoleum soaked through it. I felt as if I could catch anything in it, maybe even my dreams.
I started a petition to Little League, asking that girls be allowed to play. Neighbors and family were cynical but I persisted. When I had 50 signatures, I gave it to my mother to send off to headquarters. I never heard anything back.
I was determined to play so I organized a girls’ baseball team, the Lancers, and we met every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., right after I finished listening to “Space Patrol” on the radio. There were only four of us who defied convention back in the misogynistic 1950s. We played in the street, the verdant eucalyptus trees serving as bases for our makeshift diamond.
After each practice, I would get out that Glovoleum and tenderly apply it to the mitt. Somewhere in my heart, I knew I was out of step, that this love for playing baseball would have to stop at some point. All us girls were approaching adolescence. The social pressures to be girly and adapt to the cultural norms were overwhelming.
I placed my glove on the top shelf of the closet, along with other discarded treasures. Although I’ve lived in a dozen or more homes since then, it has always come with me.
The afternoon I saw it sitting on the garage shelf, I felt warmed when I noticed the weathered baseball still in its pocket, my childhood momentarily preserved almost intact. It’s a reminder of the power of dreams and the joy that can unexpectedly be triggered by a return to the younger version of myself.
Cover image courtesy of Eric Kilby via Flickr