IN THE TOWN OF NOCONA, situated near the Texas-Oklahoma border, the business is sports equipment, including—you guessed it—baseball gloves. But first, a warning: Mind your c’s and k’s. The glove trademark is Nokona, but the town and company is Nocona. (Not allowed to trademark the name of a city, the company decided to make a tiny spelling adjustment.)
So what makes Nokona so special? The Nocona Athletic Goods Company stands alone as the only ball-glove manufacturer that has resisted the urge to import—the gloves are 100 percent made in the U.S. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but making baseball gloves is not—just three manufacturers, including Nocona, are based in this country.
Back in 1926, when the then-called Nocona Leather Goods Company was founded, the business specialized in billfolds and ladies’ purses. During the Depression, the Texas-based company, like so many others, fell on hard times, and the purses weren’t selling. An employee by the name of Bob Storey made a suggestion—why not make baseball gloves? Storey knew a thing or two about the sport, having played college ball at Rice University and the University of Texas during the twenties. The gloves were an enormous success; Storey eventually became president of the company—a legacy was born.
Of course, Nocona’s reliance on American-made materials and labor hasn’t been easy. Foreign-made gloves are less expensive to manufacture—and purchase—and Nocona has struggled to keep its costs down to compete. At more than $100 bucks a pop, a Nokona glove is a little extravagant for the average T-baller; consequently the company stopped carrying kids’ gloves and shifted its focus to high school youths and adults. Nokona also gave up costly celebrity endorsements, unusual for a time when it seems like even the batboys have multimillion dollar endorsement contracts. But, according to Nocona president Robby Storey (Bob Storey’s grandson), things are on the upswing. Nocona representatives visited Major League spring training camps this year as a sign of the company’s interest in eventually embracing player endorsements.
With or without endorsements, Nokona has been considered a premier brand for baseball players and a find for serious sports collectors. Consider the case of John “Red” Murff. In 1999 Murff, a pitcher for the Wichita Braves in the fifties, returned to Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium looking for something he’d lost forty years earlier—his beloved Nokona glove. As a joke, someone had buried the glove underneath the field. Attempts to locate the glove with the aid of a metal detector, which would have detected the glove’s metal rivets, were unsuccessful, and Murff went home empty-handed.
Perhaps Nocona should sign Murff for a fat endorsement deal.
Nocona Athletic Goods Company
208 Walnut Street