Major league baseball teams called Roland Latina "the Glove Doctor." Latina, the retired chief glove designer at Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. 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 until 1986, and designed two major trademark features in today's gloves--the closed-back glove with an index-finger opening, and the basket web.
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.
The designer's father, Harry "Doc" Latina, also worked at Rawlings. At one time, father and son held about 90% of all baseball glove patents in the U.S.
The Latinas' glove designs were used by Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson and Roberto Clemente, among others.
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.