John Huthmacher Holy grail of Christmas gifts still a homerun

At the risk of sounding behind the season, I’ve submitted this column to coincide with “Little Christmas,” or Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the three wise men bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus.

This story is about my favorite Christmas present of all time. I was probably 9 years old at the time, so the only things I remember about it were that it was A) what I had asked for; and B) magnificent.

My dad was a pressman who liked to brag to us kids about this mythological place “next door to where he worked” where he could always find things for a fraction of the cost.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it was to discourage us from spending money. But whenever we’d think we’d found a great deal on something, he would always counter with, “At the place next to where I work it’s about half that price.”

Funny, he never took us to that store. Nor did we ever question its existence.

But, occasionally, he would score a gift or collectible through work contacts that would boggle our minds. Perhaps the myth was real, after all. Such possibilities live on in Huthmacher folklore.

My gift was one of these.

I never did get the whole story on where it came from or how it was acquired. It was certainly unique. Enough so that I’d never seen one like it.

Its red, white, and blue body suggested it may have been garnered from an Olympic representative of considerable importance. A gold medal athlete? Who knew.

As I unwrapped it, the first thing about it that caught my eye was how massive it seemed to be. Ginormous. Bigger than my head.

Next was its scent. Genuine cowhide. A smell that arouses my senses to this day.

Forget Red Rider and his trusty peace maker. This was MY holy grail of Christmas gifts: an All-American, left-handed baseball fielding glove. Shiny new. And a sight to behold.

As I slipped it on my non-throwing hand, I imagined how much it would improve my game in our neighborhood street-league neighborhood matchups.

I pictured rocking into the windup from the mound at Dodger Stadium, blowing my unhittable fastball past hitter after hitter in glorious succession in much the same way as fellow lefty Sandy Koufax had done before me.

The possibilities seemed endless. And oh so satisfying.

It was a gift that changed my way of thinking about baseball gloves forever. From then on I would rate them based on their size above all else. If it wasn’t at least as big as the Olympicsized “Scoop,” it wasn’t worth a second look.

I wish I could say that glove brought me many years of gold-glove caliber satisfaction. Sadly, it was tossed over a wall not once, but a number of times by one of my ofttimes mischievous older brothers as I was struggling to scale our backyard brick wall, which bumped up against a golf course that sometimes doubled as our makeshift baseball diamond.

“You get it!” I yelled, shooting a mean look as I dragged myself indoors, fatigued from extra innings on the golf course.

He didn’t get it.

To this day, I catch myself wondering, “If I had only gone back that one last time to retrieve it ...”

Alas, I didn’t. But no matter. Perhaps time would have diminished its value. What if I had found a bigger, better glove to replace it? Perhaps then it would have been knocked from its pedestal as the greatest object ever created by man, machine or the hand of God. As it stands, I can still picture it in all of its glory. I imagine it still slipping over my right hand with the greatest of ease. It remains unrivaled in its awesomeness.

To me, it was — and will likely forever remain — my greatest Christmas haul of all time, fielding hands up or down.

To those who celebrate “Little Christmas,” my wishes for a very happy and memorable day on Jan. 6. May your days be merry and true, and may all your Christmases be red, white and blue!

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