With the opening of the Major League Baseball season, many fans’ attention turns to the great American pastime and its heroes like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial.

Not me. Every opening day my mind latches on to the Baseball Hall of Fame member least known to the public: Heinie Manush.

Henry Emmet Manush enjoyed a 16-year career as a slugging left fielder, playing for the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns and a short stint with the Red Sox. He led the American League in batting in 1926 (.378) and had a lifetime batting average of .330.

How do I know of this man? I was about 9 years old when my dad presented me with a baseball glove that was an official Heinie Manush model. The glove had no web between the thumb and index finger. No pocket.

Toward this end every kid starting out in beginning baseball would tell you what you need to catch the ball is a glove with a deep pocket. The pocket is a crater-like shape that absorbs the energy of the ball and keeps it in the glove long enough for the player to grab the ball with the free hand and either keep it or throw it.

Every kid interested in playing baseball learned how to wrap the new glove around a ball and tape it shut, so when it came time to play you had a deep pocket. Unfortunately, my Heinie Manush model had no pocket at all. It was the anti-catch glove, with a convex pocket instead of a concave one, so when the ball bounced into where the pocket should have been, it bounced out at twice the speed. It was flat as a pancake and proved totally useless, as either an outfield glove or an infield glove.

According to my father, the glove was a grand prize in a poker game while stationed in the Philippines during World War II. It had been stuffed into his sea bag, found while he was cleaning out the basement. Voila, the glove was lying flat between a pair of 13-button wool pants and a laundry bag.

I quickly discovered that to have no glove was better than to have a glove that was flat as an IHOP special.

Eventually my dad bought me a brand new Stan Musial model Wilson glove, which I used for the rest of my childhood. But it didn’t make me a great baseball player. I didn’t have the reflexes for second base or the speed for the outfield. And we found a place for the Heinie Manush glove, the one without a web or a pocket.

It did make a darn good base. I mean the actual base, as in baseball. It was heavy enough to withstand us kids running over it. Our municipal park only supplied bases for official games, otherwise we used shirts or rags or rocks for bases.

Until, that is, Heinie Manush came along.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected].