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A baseball uniform is a type of uniform worn by baseball players. Most baseball uniforms have the names and uniform numbers of players who wear them, usually on the backs of the uniforms to distinguish players from one other. Baseball shirts (jerseys), pants, shoes, socks, caps, and glove are parts of baseball uniforms. Most uniforms have different logos and colors to tell which team is which.[1] Uniforms are also worn to identify the two teams and officials apart.[2][2]

Baseball uniforms were first worn by the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club in 1849.[3][4][5] Today, sales of replica uniforms and derivative branded products generate large amounts of income for Major League teams through merchandising.



Early developments

The New York Knickerbockers were the first baseball team to wear uniforms, taking the field on April 4, 1849 in pants made of blue wool, white flannel shirts and straw hats.[3][3][4][5][6] The practice of wearing a uniform soon spread, and by 1900, all Major League Baseball teams had adopted them.[7] By 1882 most uniforms included stockings, which covered the leg from foot to knee, and were used to differentiate one club from another. The uniforms themselves had different colors and patterns that reflected the different baseball positions.[8] In the late 1880s, the Detroit Wolverines and Washington Nationals of the National League and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association were the first to wear striped uniforms

Home and road uniforms

By the end of the 19th century, teams began the practice of wearing one of two different uniforms, one when they played in their own baseball stadium and a different one when they played on the road. It became common to wear white at home and one of gray, solid dark blue, or black on the road.[11] An early examples of this is the Brooklyn Superbas, who started to use a blue pattern for their road uniforms in 1907.[7]

In 1916, on the Giants' road uniforms, purple lines gave their uniforms a tartan-like effect and another kind of road uniform was a solid dark blue or black material with white around this time. The Kansas City Athletics home and road uniforms were changed by Charles O. Finley in 1963, to the colors of gold and green.[12] Some teams used light blue for their road uniforms from the 1970s to the early 1990s.[7] Early striped patterns developed into long stripes along the length of the uniforms, called pinstriping. This was first worn on some major league baseball team's uniforms in 1907,[11] and the pinstripes were then widened in 1912, so that the crowd could see them more clearly.[11]

The Brooklyn Bridegrooms started to use pinstriping in 1907, 1916 and 1917.[3][10] Satin and other items were added soon after pinstripes were added.[3][10][13] Pinstripes were commonly worn on the uniforms of the New York Yankees. Legend had it that the stripes were adopted to make Babe Ruth look slimmer,[14] but since the Yankees had already been wearing pinstripes a few years before Ruth played for them in 1920, the legend was found to be a myth.[15] The Yankees' pinstripes on their home uniforms soon became a symbol of them and the team.[15]

In 1916, the Cleveland Indians became the first team to add numbers on their uniforms, positioned on the left sleeve of the home uniforms only. (Okkonen, p. 36, p. 120)[11] In 1929, numbers were first added on the backs of uniforms by the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.[16] By 1932, all major league baseball teams had numbers on their players' uniforms.[7][16] The Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1952, became the first baseball team to add numbers to the fronts of their uniforms.[17][18][19]

In most parts of the world, numbers are no more than two digits long; however some Japanese players have three-digit numbers. Major league teams typically assign the highest numbers (#50 and above) in spring training to the players who are not expected to make the regular-season roster; hence the lower numbers are considered more prestigious, although there are many veterans who wear high numbers anyway. Two Hall of Famers who wore high numbers are Don Drysdale, who wore #53 for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and Carlton Fisk, who wore #72 for the Chicago White Sox.


Cap styles


Caps, or other types of headgear with eye-shades, have been a part of baseball uniforms from the beginning.[20][21] Baseball teams often wore full-brimmed straw hats or no cap at all since there was no official rule regarding headgear.[22]

From the 1840s to the 1870s, baseball players various types of hats, such as straw hats, boating caps, jockey caps, and even cycling caps. Caps, or other types of headgear with eye-shades, have been a part of baseball uniforms since the beginning.[21][23] The Brooklyn Excelsiors were the first team to wear what would later become the baseball cap, with its distinctive rounded top and peak, in the 1860s.[24]

By the early years of the twentieth century, it became common for players to wear hats with rounded tops, but some persisted with flat-topped caps, such as the Giants in 1916, and the Pittsburgh Pirates as recently as during the 1979 World Series.[11] In recent years, baseball caps have changed very little,[11] although over time, the peak has enlarged slightly to further protect the player's eyes from the sun.

Shoes

In the late 19th century, soft but durable leather shoes were the preferred choice of baseball players.

In the 1970s, as artificial turf became prominent on baseball fields, modifications to footwear became necessary.[26] Detachable spikes became popular in the 20th century, as they helped players to avoid slipping, especially on turf, but they were banned in 1976.[27]

In the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, baseball shoes were commonly black in color. In the 1960s, the Kansas City Athletics began wearing revolutionary white shoes.

Stockings and pants

Inspired by the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the stocking colors of teams in the 1860s onward were a principal device in distinguishing one team from another (hence team names such as Chicago White Stockings, St. Louis Brown Stockings (or Browns), etc.). Except for a few "candy-cane” varieties (particularly by the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators), striping was quite minimal during the 1920s and, in contrast, a revival of other sorts in the early '30s.[29]

By the 1990s, new styles of close-trimmed pants legs made it possible for players to wear pants that ran clear to the shoetops, in lieu of the traditional knee-breeches style that had prevailed for generations. This led to a violation of the literal concept of a "uniform", in that different players on a given team might wear knee-length and full-length pants on the field at the same time. Players such as Manny Ramirez have taken this fashion trend to an extreme, wearing loose-fitting pants whose legs nearly lap under the heels of the shoes. Meanwhile, players such as Alfonso Soriano continue to wear the traditional knee-breeches, though most of these players still lack the traditional stirrups.

Stockings and pants

Inspired by the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the stocking colors of teams in the 1860s onward were a principal device in distinguishing one team from another (hence team names such as Chicago White Stockings, St. Louis Brown Stockings (or Browns), etc.). Except for a few "candy-cane” varieties (particularly by the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators), striping was quite minimal during the 1920s and, in contrast, a revival of other sorts in the early '30s.[29]

By the 1990s, new styles of close-trimmed pants legs made it possible for players to wear pants that ran clear to the shoetops, in lieu of the traditional knee-breeches style that had prevailed for generations. This led to a violation of the literal concept of a "uniform", in that different players on a given team might wear knee-length and full-length pants on the field at the same time. Players such as Manny Ramirez have taken this fashion trend to an extreme, wearing loose-fitting pants whose legs nearly lap under the heels of the shoes. Meanwhile, players such as Alfonso Soriano continue to wear the traditional knee-breeches, though most of these players still lack the traditional stirrups.

Graphics and logos

From the beginning, graphic designs were used to identify teams. Often an Old English letter was worn on the chest. This style survives with the Detroit Tigers and their gothic style "D" on their home shirts. Road jerseys were more likely to identify the city, as with the Tigers wearing the word "Detroit" on their road shirts. The Oakland Athletics, who used to feature an Old English "A" on their jerseys, currently have the logo on their caps.

As official nicknames gained prominence in the early 1900s (in contrast to media-generated and unofficial nicknames of prior generations), pictorial logos began emerging as part of the team's marketing. Some early examples include a small red tiger on the black cap of the 1901 Detroit Tigers, as they were officially the Tigers from the beginning; and a bear cub logo on the Chicago Cubs shirts by 1907, as that unofficial nickname was then adopted officially by the club.

In another famous example, the Boston Americans (an unofficial designation that merely distinguished them from their across-the-tracks rivals) adopted the Nationals' abandoned red stockings in 1908, and have been the Boston Red Sox officially ever since then.[30]

By the 1930s, nearly every team had distinctive logos, letters or the team nickname on their home shirts, as part of the team's marketing. The trend of the city name on the road jerseys continued. In recent years, with team nicknames being so strongly associated with the clubs, logos that were once only used at home also turned up on road jerseys, in place of city names.

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