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Joseph Monninger
April 16, 1990
For years the springtime ritual of rubbing down my Brooks Robinson-signature glove with neat's-foot oil marked the beginning of my personal baseball season. On some snowy evening in late February or early March, my dad would turn away from his newspaper and say: "Isn't it time to dig out your mitt? We probably should get the leather softened up."
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April 16, 1990

Neat's-foot Oil: A Glove's Best Friend

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"I've got it, " I said.

He wasn't offended. He told me to check with Rawlings, and perhaps Louisville Slugger, to see if they were in the oil business.

From Rawlings I learned that the company had never actually produced neat's-foot oil, but that it did indeed issue the dreadfully named product Glovolium and had been doing so, to my surprise, for 75 years.

"Neat's-foot oil just softens leather," a manager told me. "We felt we needed something that waterproofed, conditioned and softened."

"Glovolium?" I asked.

"Yep, Glovolium. Actually, from what I hear, some of the pros use shaving cream."

Later, I spoke with Mark Proctor in Cincinnati, who owns a company called Accupack Midwest Inc. Proctor believes that Accupack is the biggest supplier of glove oil in the country. He provides Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of Louisville Slugger bats, with Glove Oil Conditioner. Hillerich & Bradsby calls it, appropriately enough, Louisville Slugger Glove Softener. Proctor also provides Regent Sports with Baseball Glove Conditioner, which is a neat's-foot oil blend. He is quick to point out that most of the glove softeners are fairly similar: "The base for these oils might be neat's-foot oil, but they add a little something, a few more chemicals. It all does about the same thing. The trouble is, if you use nothing but neat's-foot oil, it will eventually turn the mitt a cream color. Most people don't go for that."

By rough count, he guessed that at least a million four-ounce bottles—a bottle should be enough for an entire season of play if used once every two weeks—of glove softener are purchased each year in America.

Rawlings, the leader in the American baseball glove market, sells somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 to 75.000 four-ounce bottles of Glovolium, which also uses a neat's-foot oil base.

I asked Proctor if he'd ever heard of anyone using shaving cream on gloves.

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