Friday, April 24, 2009

And Now You Know!: Baseball Uniform

I recently was bat boy for the Kansas City Royals when they played against the Texas Rangers and it was quite a unique experience. It'll be the first of many this season but the one downfall to the series was the uniform. On the third day of the series a nit-picking representative from MLB sent an email to my boss stating that my uniform was slightly untucked in the back and thus I was violating MLB uniform policy.

So it got me thinking about the baseball uniform. Why is baseball the only uniform in which the uniform is a button up shirt? Every other sports uniform is a jersey pullover. It's strange because about 1 of every 20 players actually unbuttons their jersey when throwing it in the laundry, the rest simply pull it over their heads.

I read an article about this awhile ago and there seems to be no real reason why players wear button up shirts like business attire. Some players even used to wear ties when playing. The dress code didn't just stick with the players as some managers elected to wear a suit in the dugout while coaching.

The pullover jersey did make a run in the 70s-80s where almost the entire league donned the pullovers but they quickly disappeared for no reason besides comfort? Players wear pullover jerseys during batting practice and fielding and no one seems to have a problem with them. They are in fact lighter than the actual jersey but no teams wear them during games.

Baseball used to even have jerseys with laces much like a hockey jersey except the laces went all the way down the jersey. As far as the numbering on the jerseys go, it wasn't until 1929 when the Yankees decided to give players full-time numbers. Their system was easy, you got the number for which you were in the batting order. Therefore, in 1929, leadoff hitter Earle Combs wore #1, Mark Koenig #2, Babe Ruth #3, Lou Gehrig #4, Bob Meusel #5, Tony Lazzeri #6, Leo Durocher #7, Johnny Grabowski #8, and Benny Bengough #9 Of course that could explain why as a bat boy I didn't get a number.

And speaking of the Yankees and their uniforms. Where did the pinstripes come from? Much like the stripes you will find on a suit, the Yankees decided that they wanted pinstripes on their uniforms. Well let it be known that the Yankees weren't the first team to don the stripes as Detroit, Washington, and Brooklyn incorporated stripes by 1988. The stripes went away a year later until Brooklyn brought them back in 1907 and it wasn't until the New York Highlanders in 1912 brought out the pinstripe uniforms.

The story continues with the Highlanders as they abandoned the stripes and their team name. Sources around the internet say that journalists needed a shorthand way to refer to the Highlanders and began calling them Yankees. In 1913 the Yankees officially changed their name and it wasn't until 1915 that the pinstripes were on for good.

So, just as I learned something last week while a MLB official had too much time on his hands to notice my 3 second appearances on the field, there is an etiquette to wearing the button up jerseys.

And Now You Know! (And Knowing is Half the Battle)

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Brian Doyle said...

If only the folks at MLB had relayed that "tuck in your shirt" information to you months ago.

How do you feel about the White Sox wearing shorts during the 70s?

Chris said...

I was hiding all the Balls in my pocket...

Brian Doyle said...

Good point. But I hope next week's column will explain who exactly number 35 on Kansas City is anyway.

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