Writing in Fortune, Matthew Boyle tells the story of a baseball glove unlike most others.
St. Louis is as good a place as any to begin this glove story, as it is the home of Rawlings, currently in its 120th year as a supplier of all manner of baseball equipment. In 1920, Rawlings introduced the first glove to feature laces between the thumb and forefinger (previous mitts were no more than padded workmen's gloves).
That glove, called the Bill Doak, began an evolutionary process that today culminates in the Rawlings Primo, the most expensive baseball glove ever made. It costs $400. Yes, $400 - that's a little over a week's pay for a typical Wal-Mart employee. (At least that employee won't be tempted to blow his wages, as you'll never find the Primo on Wal-Mart's shelves.)
Two years in development, the Primo features Italian leather hand-sewn into an advanced three-layer design that, Rawlings claims, can be broken in to suit specific positions. In a season dominated by batting achievements (Barry Bonds' record*, Alex Rodriguez's 500th homer), Rawlings hopes the Primo will reestablish its status as the preeminent glove-design house, a position that is under threat from rivals like Wilson, Mizuno, Easton and Nike (Charts, Fortune 500).