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Familiar Faces: Macaluso has caught the catcher's mitt collecting bug

By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
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Walking into Richard Macaluso’s office, someone could think they are in a mini Giants’ Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s got Giants’ jerseys, posters of the teams, 135 catcher’s mitts, a three-ringed binder filled with baseball trading cards, stadium seats from Candlestick Park Seals Stadium, a Bruce Bochy (manager of the Giants) office chair, a number of books and photos related to baseball, and old baseball game programs which have been autographed. He grew up in the Bay Area playing baseball and went to his first Giants game in 1958 with his father.

What sparked your interest in collecting baseball memorabilia?

In the 1950s I began collecting baseball cards. When I went into the service in 1966 I gave my collection to my brother. In the1980s, my brother gave them back to me. I realized that I didn’t have a complete collection. I went hunting for the missing trading cards at antique stores. At one of the stores, I found a Mickey Mantle glove, just like the one I used playing Little League baseball in 1955, and a catcher’s mitt. Future searches for the baseball cards resulted in more purchases of gloves and mitts. I was hooked. I began buying mitts. I now have about 135 catchers’ mitts from 1890 to 2000 with several from each decade since 1890. My costs for the mitts have ranged from $20 to $450. Originally, an 1890s mitt cost $5; by the year 2000, they were priced between $200 and $300.

What sources do you use to purchase your mitts?

During the 1990s, Joe Phillips out of Dallas, Texas printed a newsletter called “The Glove Collector.” I purchased mitts (about half of my collection) through ads placed in the newsletter. That was before eBay came along. Now I buy all my mitts through eBay.

What do you currently do?

Back in the 1990s, I decided to write a book. I retired in 2003 from a 20-year job with CalTrans as a traffic engineer and nine years with four other state departments. Prior to that, I served in the military and was stationed in Germany where I was an air traffic controller at a small airfield. We had just five to 10 landings a day. I used the GI bill to get my master’s degree and then my teaching credential. There were no jobs in teaching so I ended up seeking employment with the state.

It’s only in the past two-and-a-half years that I’ve really concentrated on writing this book and putting it together. I should be done with the first draft in a couple of months.

What is your book about?

It’s about the evolution of the catcher’s mitt. It’s titled “From Buck to Pudge.” William “Buck” Ewing popularized the mitt in the 19th century, and Pudge Rodriguez was the best catcher at the end of the 20th century.

The book is broken into six chapters:

The first chapter covers the19th century, and then there are five 20-year periods in the 20th century. I talk about early protective equipment, the first padded mitt, and the many variations in the 20th century. Included are 350 photos of my mitts, baseball Hall of Fame mitts, and prominent catchers of the 19th and 20th centuries. I had to pay the Hall of Fame $40 for each photo. I still have to get permission to use some of the player photos that I want to use in the book.

What resources have you used for your book?

Joe Phillips wrote a book called the “Vintage Baseball Glove Source Book.” Through his book I was able to identify the vintage professional mitts to seek out and purchase. He also made copies of the actual catalogs which contain the pictures of the mitts and descriptions. I have to give him credit in my book, because without his book, I could have never written mine.

Are you working with a publisher?

I don’t have anyone in particular yet. There are only two publishers in the Bay Area that will accept proposals. Some publishers I’ve spoken to will take no more than 30 photos, and I have about 12 times the number. Before sending it to a publisher for consideration, the first draft will be reviewed by a select group of people: the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) group of which I’ve been a member for the past 18 years, and a couple of former major league catchers.

How have your collections been publicized?

I had an exhibit at the Folsom History Museum in 2008 and exhibits at the Placerville and El Dorado Hills libraries. A few years ago I gave a talk at SABR’s annual meeting which was in Cincinnati. Joe Phillips also wrote a story about my collection in his newsletter.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I play golf and I help run the golf tournament at Holy Trinity Church and am a greeter at the church. We also travel a lot. We’re going to Germany over the summer.

Tell us about your family.

I have two kids, Ryan and Gina, a grandson Mateo, and another grandchild on the way. Ryan is a computer engineer for Plantronics in Santa Cruz. Gina runs a weight loss and wellness coaching company for which she is termed “The Queen of Mindset for Weight Loss.” Susan and I have been married for 40 years. She’s a retired teacher and an independent travel consultant.

What are you most proud of?

My kids. They’ve been very successful and have their college degrees and good jobs.

What causes are you passionate about?

The veterans. We donate to them. We also support the state and federal parks programs. We’ve been to over 30 national parks including parks in Hawaii, Florida, Maine, and Alaska.