Bob Reach was born in Brooklyn in 1843 and was likely a Civil War veteran. He had a brief career as a Major League ballplayer, appearing in three games from 1872-73 for Washington’s National Association team. He collected three singles in 13 at-bats and scored a pair of runs. After his playing days ended, he remained close to baseball and in 1890 was involved in the failed peace talks between the American Association, National League and Players League. Bob’s brother, Al Reach, was also a ballplayer who eventually came to own the Philadelphia Phillies and established himself as a sporting goods magnate.
Although Bob’s playing days were long gone, he had a brilliant idea for a glove that would make catching a “ball or other missile” a much less painful affair. He claimed that an inflatable padding in the glove was an improvement over the conventional padding materials—cloth and hair—that made gloves inflexible and awkward to use.
Early experiments revealed that a fully inflated bladder would cause the ball to bounce out of the glove before the fielder could close his fingers around it. Reach countered this result by under inflating the bladder, which led to the right balance between cushion and performance. The patent for his simply named “Glove” was issued on April 21, 1891 and assigned to the American Patents Company. Bob Reach also patented a “Tug of War Belt” and fixture used to secure gymnastics equipment to the floor.
United States Patent No. 437,821, Issued October 7, 1890.
United States Patent No. 437,822, Issued October 7, 1890.
United States Patent No. 450,717, Issued April 21, 1891.
Multiple authors, “Civil War Veterans Who Played Major League Baseball Research Project,” SABR, 9, https://sabr.org/cmsFiles/Files/Civil%20War%20veterans.pdf
“War to the Knife,” October 23, 1890, 3.