National Pastime? Pitcher Forced to Change His Glove Because of American Flag Patch

News & Politics

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Luke Little is a 23-year-old phenom with a blazing fastball. When he entered in the 7th inning of Wednesday’s game, with one out and a Houston Astro player on first base, he went through the usual rigamarole with the home plate umpire, getting checked to make sure he didn’t have any vaseline or other foreign objects in his glove or under his hat.

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That’s when the kid found out that his glove was declared illegal because it had a red, white, and blue patch on it. 

Little was perplexed. He had used the glove throughout his professional career, starting in “A” ball and progressing to the majors. But the decision to ban the glove stood.

It was a small patch of color on his black glove. But the veteran umpire, Andy Fletcher, told Little that the glove had to go.

“The issue was the American flag was on his glove,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said after Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Houston Astros. “They’re pretty strict about not having white on the pitchers’ gloves. Apparently, the flag could be a distraction to the hitter.”

After mowing down two of Houston’s best hitters, Little, who was born and raised in North Carolina, posted to “X” about the incident.

One of the Chicago “clubbies” brought out another of Little’s gloves, but that one also had an American flag patch. Finally, Little got a glove that conformed to MLB specifications. But the glove was almost new and had not been “broken in.” It was still stiff and difficult to open and close.

“I had to beat it a little bit, try and get it flexed out,” Little said. “Of all the things to do is breaking in a glove during a game.”

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The club apparently received an email from Major League Baseball telling the team that he wasn’t allowed to use the glove with the patch.

“The clubbies told me that they had got an email from MLB that I’m not allowed to wear it,” he told The Associated Press. “But I just didn’t assume that they were just going to just cut me. It’s not like it has an advantage in the game. It’s not like it blinds the hitters. Just representing my country.”

“Just a whole debacle. Got to get ready without it and throw through it,” he added. 

It should be noted that the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it illegal to wear any flag decoration on the uniform.

Associated Press:

The collective bargaining agreement also states: “No player or club may attach or otherwise affix or embroider to any portion of the uniform (including the cap and the helmet, batter and catcher) or playing equipment (including gloves), any pins, flags, commemorative patches, decals or other items,” unless authorized by the commissioner’s office.

Also, as some posters on “X” point out, wearing the flag on a piece of clothing is a breach of flag etiquette.

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In an incredible twist of irony, MLB’s action to ban the American flag from Little’s glove occurred 48 years, almost to the day, after one of the great moments in baseball history.

April 25, 1976, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, two protesters raced onto the field with an American flag with the intent to set it on fire. Suddenly, Cubs right fielder Rick Monday swooped in and rescued the flag before it could be desecrated.

I was watching that game on TV and I still get choked up seeing the entire episode, including hearing the spontaneous cheering after the protesters are led off the field.

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