Rawlings’ ‘Glove Doctor’ Dies at 78
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ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Major league baseball teams called Roland Latina ``The Glove Doctor.″
Latina, the retired chief glove designer at Rawlings Sporting Goods in St. Louis, died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Belleville, Ill. He was 78.
Latina was born in East St. Louis, Ill., and was a gunner for the Navy during World War II.
He worked for Rawlings at its St. Louis headquarters for 39 years and designed two major trademark features in today’s modern gloves _ the closed-back glove with an index finger opening, and the basket web.
Latina worked with individual players to design and repair gloves, and spent time in many teams’ dugouts. In the 1970s, he worked with Hall of Famer Johnny Bench to design a new catcher’s mitt when the Cincinnati Reds catcher kept his throwing hand behind his back while he caught.
His father, Harry ``Doc″ Latina, also worked at Rawlings. At one time, father and son held about 90 percent of all baseball glove patents in the United States. The Latinas’ glove designs were used by Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente and others.
``There is probably no one that has played baseball or softball that has not owned a glove with a Latina design feature,″ said Bob Clevenhagen, glove production supervisor at Rawlings.
Latina also designed other sporting goods, including hockey masks and football helmets.
After his retirement in 1986, he and his wife, Wanda, enjoyed sailing aboard the Harry B, a sailboat Latina built.
Besides his wife, he is survived by three daughters, Ronda Latina and Cynthia Schuessler, both of Belleville, and Linda Mitchell of Freeburg, Ill.; a sister, Carol Logan of Pekin, Ill.; and six grandchildren.
A private graveside service was held in Fairview Heights, Ill.