Do Gloves Talk Now

Anyone who has watched a baseball game in the last thirty years has seen some form or another of glove-talking.

Glove-talking? What do you mean? Do gloves talk now? In my day they were made of leather and you had to operate them with your hand.

No, no, you still have to use your hand to make them work. These days gloves not only aid in the catching of a baseball, but they also double as a mask, something that the 2020 human is quite used to. More specifically, players hold their glove over their mouths when speaking to another player about strategy concerning the game. Why do they do this? Are they just acting weird? No, ballplayers are paranoid. But why are they so paranoid?

Where Did The Paranoia Begin

It began with a first baseman and a pitcher.

Will Clark

First, let’s do a little background on Will Clark. If you don’t already know, Clark was one of the top first basemen of the late 80s and early 90s. He was a six-time All-Star, a Gold Glove Award winner, a two-time Silver Slugger recipient, and the MVP of the 1989 National League Championship Series (NLCS). It is the first game of this 1989 NLCS that started the paranoid act of glove-talking. At least that is what Will claims.

Now it’s time to meet the other half of this duo.

Greg Maddux

And now a little background on Greg Maddux. Maddux is one of only ten pitchers to win over 300 games, strikeout over 3,000 batters, and have fewer than 1,000 walks. His awards are almost too numerous to list, but let’s just say he has won a lot of Cy Young Awards, and a lot of Gold Glove Awards, and he was an All-Star many times over. Also, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Game In Question

October 4, 1989. It is game 1 of the NLCS. Wrigley Field is packed with ravenous Cubs’ fans. The San Francisco Giants are ahead 4 – 3 going into the top of the fourth.  Maddux is on the hill for the Chicago Cubs.

The first batter Maddux faces in the fourth is Pat Sheridan. Sheridan singles to center. Then he faces Juan Uribe. Uribe singles to right, sending Sheridan to third. The Giants have runners at the corners with nobody out. Maddux needs a strikeout. He strikes out Scott Garrelts.

Now, the smart move is to load the bases. Why? Because it creates a force at each base causing a better scenario to get a double play, which is exactly what the Cubbies need at this point.

Next up is Brett Butler. Maddux intentionally walks him. Bases Loaded. Strategy set. Maddux then gets Robby Thompson to pop out to the shortstop. Okay, okay, not quite a double play, but it’s one step closer to getting out of the jam, but first Maddux needs to get through Will ‘The Thrill’ Clark.

This is a big at-bat. The game is still close. Will already hit a home run off of Maddux in the previous inning (and a double in the first, but who’s counting?). There is not a better time to have a meeting on the mound to discuss what should happen next. Clark intently watches the caucus taking place. He sees Maddux mouth the words, “fastball in”. The convention breaks up, Maddux gets back on the rubber, and Will steps in the box.

Guess what?

The first pitch is a fastball in. Clark turns on it and hits the pitch on Waveland Avenue. Grand slam.

The story comes out that Clark read Maddux’s lips. Suspiciously, Maddux starts glove-talking during the following 1990 season and for every season after that until he retires in 2008. Really, can you blame the guy?

Maddux Has A Tendency To Use Dirty Words

The story is confirmed by Clark’s teammate, Kevin Mitchell, and many of Maddux’s fellow Cubs. But one former teammate of Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe, claims that Maddux didn’t start glove-talking because of Clark. He says that Maddux does have a habit of mouthing what pitch he is going to throw next. This part of Suttcliffe’s statement points to the Clark incident actually being the reason that Maddux starts glove-talking. The second half of what Sutcliffe says is that the real reason Maddux covers his mouth is because has a tendency to swear while he’s on the mound. Maddux’s wife, displeased with his use of vulgar language, told him that if he was going to swear then he should cover his mouth.

Who knows if it was Will or curse words that started the trend, but either way, glove-talking is so common now that every ballplayer does it. Even catchers wearing their masks do it. Glove-talking is here to stay even if your mouth is already hidden.

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