The Chemistry of Ball Gloves


A ball glove is used to catch a ball, either thrown by another player on the team, or hit by the batter from the opposing team. There are certain types of gloves for certain positions, such as outfield, infield, first base, catcher, and pitcher. I chose to research ball gloves because I use one often, and I might as well learn about something I use. My life is affected by my glove because I’ve jammed and dislocated less fingers than I would have without a glove.Composition of ...The lacing and the shell are made of leather. The cowhide consists of water and proteins, such as Elastin, Collagen, Keratin, Albumens Globulins, Mucens, and Mucoids. The leather is tanned cowhide. It consists of Chromium Sulfate ( [Cr(H2O)6]2(SO4)3), Chromium Salts, Collagen (Glycine, Proline, and Hydroxyproline), and Sodium Bicarbonate.The lining of the glove is made with Polyurethane. Polyurethan consists of Isocyanates, Polyols, and Carbamate (Urethane).

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Cowhide is made into leather in eight steps. Two steps are Preparation, the skinning and the curing with salt. The curing is to prevent putrefaction of the hide. The last six are the “Beamhouse Operations.” They include the soaking in clean water to remove the salt, liming with “Milk of Lime” (Calcium Hydroxide) to remove any remaining fat or mucins, unhairing, deliming and bating to soften the hide, pickling with salt and sulfuric acid, and finishing (tanning) with Chromium Sulfate. The Polyurethane lining is in the class of compounds called “Reaction Polymers.” Polyurethane is created by reacting an isocyanate with a polyol. The properties of the Polyurethane depend on the polyols and the isocyanates. Long, flexible segments of polyol lead to a soft, flexible polymer, like is lining a glove.

Chemistry's Role

The Leather is made out of cowhide, which is naturally occurring animal skin. The cowhide is treated and tanned at a tannery, either by machine or by hand. The Polyurethane is man-made in a lab. The isocyanates are reacted with the polyols in the presence of a catalyst or by activation with an ultraviolet light.

Background Research

There is an extensive history for ball gloves. The earliest glove was not webbed, and it was used mainly to hit the ball to the ground to be picked up. It wasn’t until the mid 1890s that it was deemed normal for players to wear gloves. The webs for them were proposed in 1920. Top-notch gloves are made with heavy leather and need quite a bit of time to break in. There are also several varieties of ball gloves. Catcher’s Mitts are called mitts because they lack individual fingers (think mittens). They have extra padding to catch fast, hard pitches. They have a hinged, claw-like shape and a 32-40 inch circumference. First Baseman’s Mitts are long and wide to scoop bad throws. Most were made for lefties and they measure 12-12.75 inches from wrist to tip. Infielder’s Gloves are smaller, with shallow pockets to quickly remove the ball from the glove and open webbing to let the dirt escape from the glove quickly. They measure 11-12 inches from wrist to tip. Outfielder’s Gloves are long with deep pockets to catch fly balls on the run or in a dive. They are generally worn in with a flatter squeeze than an infielder’s glove. They measure 12-12.75 inches from wrist to tip. Pitcher’s Gloves have closed webbing to conceal the grip on the ball from the batter, as the grip determines the nature of the pitch. They measure 11.75-12 inches from wrist to tip. Switch-Thrower’s Gloves have a second thumb pocket to allow it to be worn on both hands. The pricing of ball gloves can range anywhere from $50-$350. A single cowhide can supply three or four gloves.


History, Varieties, Sizing, Manufacturers


Lining of mitt

Lining of some mitts

How it’s made

The cowhide in the glove

Structure of cowhide

Tanning process and chemicals

Polyurethane information

About the Author

Alyssa Greer is a Junior at Billings Senior High School. She swims and plays softball for her high school team. Her softball career began thirteen years ago, when she was a mere four years old. The glove in this presentation is well over 20 years old, and has been in use by Aly since she was eight years old. Aside from participating in sports, Aly has also been in her school’s choir since she was a Freshman. She is also heavily involved in church ministries.