DescriptionLate 1970's Johnny Bench Game Worn Catcher's Mitt. We've said it before, but it bears repeating--game worn fielder's gloves remain the most elusive of all equipment/uniform pieces to collectors of the genre. The reasoning is quite simple. Nothing is more personal to a ballplayer than his glove, and it's the only piece in his arsenal (with the possible exception of shoes) that improves with age. While jerseys, bats, caps, batting gloves, etc. are typically discarded with little thought or sentimentality, the fielder's glove is something entirely different, usually used for an entire season or more. One will recall the scandal in the New York Yankees spring training camp a few years ago when Derek Jeter's fielder's glove was stolen. Surely he's lost endless jerseys and bats to equipment thieves, but the loss of the glove sent Jeter to the press, and subsequently smoked out the culprit as a fellow Yankee teammate (who was summarily dismissed).
Don't worry though--we come by this game used leather entirely honestly. A great letter of provenance from our consignor, who idolized Bench as a child, tells the story of how Duane Walker (Cincinnati Reds 1982-85) guilted Bench into making a gift of it to the boy, whose father had coached Walker in high school. And lest you think to question the authenticity of the glove itself, twin letters of authenticity are likewise provided from both top glove expert Joe Phillips and senior Rawlings glove designer Bob Clevenhagen. Both note that the "RL-P" model of this glove is an exclusive pro-stock designation, and that such a mitt could not have been purchased commercially. They likewise note the unusual customization of a "DE" wingtip model back with an "RL" front, such as only a professional could request. The quick action fold is also typical of Bench's preferred models, and even the indentation at the index finger area of the outside of the mitt indicates the manner in which Bench wore his. Finally, a vintage number "5" on the thumb and a faded (2/10) autograph on the pinky seal the deal. Use is fantastic, which lends credence to our earlier assertion of just how scarce these long-serving tools of the game typically are. Very few have ever existed, and almost none today.
There is arguably no other position on the baseball field in which the importance of offensive skills as opposed to defensive is so heavily skewed to the latter. Following this line of reasoning, there is no fielder's glove quite so important as a catcher's mitt. We then realize it is no great leap of faith to conclude that a mitt once owned and operated by this Hall of Fame hero of the Big Red Machine should qualify as one of the most appealing fielder's gloves to reach the auction block in recent memory. LOA from Joe Phillips. LOA from Bob Clevenhagen. LOA from James Spence Authentication. LOA from PSA/DNA.
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