The 2018 baseball season has begun. Baseball season coincides in the Northeast with the beginning of spring and rebirth. Recently, I received a special glove in need of renewal, a beautiful Rawlings HH Harvey Haddix mid1950s vintage glove.
The name Harvey Haddix conjured my earliest memories of baseball season, which for a certain generation, will also bring to mind the ritual of collecting baseball cards. I clearly remember my first purchase of a pack of Topps brand baseball cards. It was 1964 and I was nine. For ten cents a kid could purchase the chance to cash in on collecting their diamond heroes. After unwrapping the clear plastic wrap, the pack revealed a hard, flat 2 “x 1” pink piece of nearly inedible bubble gum, and a stack of twelve cards of individual professional players, or special cards of various interest with stats and important events rehashing the previous 1963 season. On the front of each card was a picture of the ballplayer, the player’s name, position and team. The first card in my purchase was Gus Bell, a New York Met.
To this Long Island native baseball neophyte, the Mets were a curious sensation. The brand new team debuting in 1962 owed their existence as a major league apology for the loss of the Dodgers and Giants seven years earlier to the West Coast. Remarkably, many of the beloved famed Brooklyn Dodger players, who were all-be-it past their prime, were on the original Metropolitans roster. The Met team colors were a combination of the Giants and Dodgers’ colors. Further down in the pack I discovered another Met, Don Zimmer.
The card showed Don in a Mets uniform with his signature chaw of tobacco in his cheek, but upon further inspection the card indicated that he was on the Reds. Don only played 14 games for the Mets before being traded to Cincinnati. I voraciously read the back of the cards, which contained career stats and a small cartoon illustrating a notable event or achievement in the player’s career. Don’s cartoon noted how his timely hitting helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955. As I perused the cards, suddenly the entirety of baseball history began to unfold, piquing my curiosity. I would compare the stats of the great players of my time to the greats of the past, The Babe, Ted Williams and Joe D. As I continued to flip through the pack, I came across a Harvey Haddix card. I remember thinking: what a great name.
Inspecting the back, I discovered Harvey had already had a twelve-year career by 1964, but it was the cartoon caption that stuck in my mind. Haddix had pitched a perfect game through 12 innings retiring 36 batters in a row with his nasty slider and wicked fastball in 1959, but tragically lost the game anyway in the 13th inning.
Harvey Haddix, “The Kitten,” was a remarkable left-handed pitcher coming to the Saint Louis Cardinals at the age of 22 in 1952. In 1953 he was sensational, winning 20 games. Rawlings manufactured their gloves in St. Louis and seizing on his fame, produced their finest professional quality glove in 1954 the HH, Harvey Haddix signature model. The glove was large and quickly became the preferred glove for outfielders. Similar models Rawlings made around the same time were “The Duke” DS Duke Snider and JG Johnny Groth. When Willie Mays made his famous catch in the World Series against the Indians he did it with the HH.
The HH had a few good years with Rawlings as its top professional model then disappeared in 1960 morphing into the signature model of the 1960s XPG series.