Few things in this world looks quite so beat up as a beat-up baseball glove.
A pirate's map of buried treasure, maybe, or possibly a well-used farm truck.
But a mitt, nearing the end of its useful life, puts even those to shame. The ground-in dirt and nicks from a thousand ground balls. The frayed webbing. The palm leather so thin you can read through it.
"Each glove is different," says Tom McGuire, smiling, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he draws up memories. "And each glove tells a story."
McGuire should know.
He played baseball. He's coached baseball and softball, first for his daughters, then at Tigard High, then for grandchildren. And today, as he should be relaxing and enjoying his retirement, he's started a business that's little more than a cluttered workbench in a cluttered garage: All-Star Glove Repair.
To put it simply: If you're a mitt, and you've been put through the wringer, then Tom McGuire is your guy.
He's the court of last resort in the school of hard knocks.
"Sometimes, you can just fix a couple of laces, add a little conditioning, pound a few balls into it, and you've got a brand new glove," McGuire says. "To me, that just, well, pretty cool."
One of his clients is Colin Griffin, varsity baseball coach at Jesuit High School. Griffin had a beloved infield glove that was with him at Willamette University in Salem, where he played every inning of every game throughout his sophomore, junior and senior years. "I'd patched it myself over the years, but I'd never had it relaced," Griffin said.
"I couldn't believe it when Tom got it back to me! It was in incredible shape," he added. "That guy's amazing!"
Tom McGuire, 65, is as "Tigard" as Tigard gets. He was born here. His father, Thomas J. McGuire, was a general surgeon with a practice here in the 1950s. Tom was 9 when his father died. "A lot of friends, a lot of his patients, took us in, took care of us," he says. "Dad left a pretty good legacy."
He attended St. Anthony's and graduated from Tigard High in 1970. He met his wife, Debbi, at what was known as the Old Fowler School.
"She opened my locker on my first day at school. She wouldn't have anything to do with me the rest of that year, but eventually I won her over."
He had a full career at Cisco Food Services until he retired more than three years ago.
In between, he coached Little League and high school baseball.
He took care of his daughters' gloves and his grandchildren's gloves. Just as he'd taken care of his own.
But around four years ago, a friend of his saw a perfectly good glove with a busted web, tossed into a trash can at Tigard High.
The friend brought it to McGuire, who purchased the right kind of lace, the right kind of needle (The Tandy PermaLok Super Jumbo Needle, thank you, a wicked device that would look equally at home at the end of a whaler's harpoon or in the hands of a street-fighter). After 15 minutes of work, he says, he had a good-as-new glove without the new-glove price tag.
That friend was Ken Harms, the freshman basketball coach at Tigard.
Harms also give McGuire his own glove to work on; this was a glove Harms had used since middle school in the mid-1980s. It was held together with zip ties. "I'd just beat the hell out of that thing," he says.
McGuire he took it, got the laces improved (he leans toward the one-quarter-inch lace, not the industry standard three-sixteenths), put some conditioning paste onto it, and sent it back. Harms' daughters took the glove in and left it on an end table.
Harms says he walked past the mitt for a couple of days, annoyed that one of his kids hadn't put a glove away. When he complained, his daughter said, "Dad! That's your high school glove!"
"I swear, I didn't recognize it. It's like brand new."
McGuire's business took off from there. He started getting calls from parents. Then from players and coaches. Then from people as far away as New Jersey. "Hey, can you look at my glove... I've got a game tonight... Is this savable...?"
He got himself a Facebook page. He had some business cards made up.
His "office" is a mish-mash of a garage, with a couple of fridges, a couple of cars, a couple of mowers. Bicycles hang from the roof like bats. Recycling bins overflow. Tools cling to a pegboard while a Tigard Booster Club letterman's jacket hangs from a nail.
His work bench isn't much bigger than, well, a strike zone. His tool kit is a plastic bin with a tape measure, needles, pliers and scissors. He's got long loops of lacings in the traditional saddle brown, as well as Tigard green, OSU orange and Sherwood maroon. He's got a baseball-like device he uses to smack gloves into shape, MacGyver'd from a baseball, a mallet and duct tape.
"It's pretty easy," McGuire says, donning his long leather apron. He applies needle to the weathered face of an ancient Rawlings catcher's mitt. "I'm not a knitter. And I wasn't given the skills my dad had to be a surgeon. So I do this."
He gets old gloves and new ones. He gets high-end athletic gear and toys. "I've worked on $400, $500 gloves. Also, tiny plastic gloves for little kids. It's a broad spectrum."
His favorite is what he calls "heirloom gloves."
"They've lasted 30 or 40 years. We're talking really good leather. Then I get 'em, and they could last another 30 or 40 years. And now we're really talking about something that really could be passed down from generation to generation."
One guy in Medford sent his childhood glove to McGuire. Later, he sent McGuire a video of his grandson, playing catch with that same mitt.
That one still leads McGuire — who lost his own father at age 9 — to tear-up. "That's just ... wow. It's just the greatest thing to see. I mean ... wow."
McGuire attended the original, 1927 Tigard High School — called "Old Fowler" — on the corner of what now is Highway 99W and Southwest Durham Road. And he was there when the school was torn down, too. He was the baseball coach in 1976, as the old school was ending its reign and as the crews were getting ready to raze the building.
"The wrecking ball was waiting there. And I had the honor of coaching the last game ever on that field," McGuire said.
Much later that night, and with only hours before the school was set for demolition, McGuire and one of his players donned black watch caps and black sweaters, and snuck back onto the baseball field. With the help of shovels, they dug up home plate and snuck it out.
The wreckers torn down the school the next morning.
A lot of guys claim to have stolen home plate. But when McGuire stands at his work bench, breathing new life into an old glove, all he has to do is look down and see the proof.
He really, honestly, stole home plate.
Editor's note: Due to an error at the press, this story was not completed in versions of the May 10 edition sold in newsstand racks. Papers delivered to subscribers were complete.
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