967-68 Johnny Bench Cincinnati Reds Rookie Year Game Used Catcher's Mitt (PSA & Bench LOA)
Johnny Bench is widely regarded as the greatest catcher of all time, the catching GOAT. Presented is a game used catcher's mitt that the Hall of Famer used during the 1967 and '68 seasons. Bench played his entire 17-year career with the Cincinnati Reds. Superb as both a hitter and a catcher, Bench was a key leader on the Cincinnati Reds' "Big Red Machine," the team that dominated baseball in the mid-1970s, as Cincinnati won six division titles, four NL pennants and two World Series during that era. Bench broke into the Major Leagues with Cincinnati as a 19-year-old in 1967, but his official rookie season was 1968 when he was the NL Rookie of the Year. In '67, Bench played in 26 games, batting 163. In his '68 season, Bench proved he belonged, as he hit 15 homers, drove in 82 runs and hit .275. He won a Gold Glove, and he made the NL All-Star Team. In his career (1967-83), Bench hit 389 home runs, had 1,376 RBIs, and hit .267. When he retired, Bench had hit more home runs than any other Major League catcher, but that record has been surpassed by Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza, the current record holder. Bench has been a 2-time NL MVP, a 14-time All-Star, a 2-time World Series Champion, a World Series MVP, and a 10-time Gold Glove winner. The mitt is a 1967 Rawlings Model Number HOH X33.0" leather catcher's mitt with a solid leather connector web. The glove displays outstanding use. Substantial wear can be seen in the face of the web, in the pocket, and throughout the face of the mitt. Bench has autographed the glove in black pen with the added inscription "Catch Ya Later." The mitt is made from Rawlings' top grade, tanned "Heart of the Hide" steer hide bound with tanned rawhide laces and nylon stitching. The mitt has a conventional back, a "Deep Well Pocket" with a connector web. This style glove, without a palm hinge, is intended to have the player catch with two hands. On the back of the pinky and ring finger sleeve is "J. Bench" in period black marker, (by an unknown hand) and the mitt is signed by Bench (faded) on the inside of the thumb. Also in period black marker, on the back of the thumb, is Bench's number "5." Manufacturer's labeling includes a Rawlings red label on the back of the mitt with "Rawlings" branded on the heel. Also included is a signed note from Bench indicating that it was his first mitt with the Reds. This note is printed on an approx. 3.75x6" paper and framed to a 6x8" clear plastic-coated wooden plaque, which reads, "This is my catcher[']s mitt I used when I started my career with the Cincinnati Reds." Bench has signed the note, using ink from a blue marker, as "Johnny Bench." Also, a full PSA/DNA LOA comes with the mitt. This Bench catcher's mitt is the best Bench mitt we have ever handled. The mitt exhibits fine use. You can tell that this was used by a professional by the way that it is broken in, and the pocket getting drilled by 95 mph fast balls. The game used mitt comes with a circa 1968 photo of Bench with same style mitt and also with his 1969 Topps card (#95) which is also the same style mitt, possibly this very mitt. This game used Bench catcher's mitt is a wonderful collectible. Bench was trained by his father, Ted, to throw a baseball 254 feet - twice the distance from home plate to second base - from a crouch. No wonder Bench once said that he could 'throw out any man alive," because he could. And it's almost certain that he threw out some of them while using this glove.
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