In thinking about baseball, we picture this all-American sport that brought people together through radio and television broadcasts and trips to the fields.
As far back as fans can remember, baseball has been the common ground between people from all walks of life—whether a bond between a parent and child, neighboring houses, or a catalyst for camaraderie between people of the same cities, states, and even countries. This pastime has been around and in the hearts of many for quite some time, but how often do we think about the details of it? Those of us who are avid watchers and fans of this sport know the rules, the stats, and the players, but what about things like the evolution of baseball uniforms?
It’s weird to consider a time when baseball players didn’t wear uniforms; however, that time did exist. The first official game of baseball took place in New Jersey in June 1846, whereas the first uniforms weren’t worn until April 1849. The first team to wear them was the New York Knickerbockers, but soon all Major League Baseball teams adopted this practice.
The first uniforms had knee-high stockings as well as different colored or patterned uniforms that not only reflected the team, but the position played. They were combined with matching caps and even eye shades from the beginning. By the end of the nineteenth century, the teams’ players would have at least two sets of uniforms that were different colors.
Home vs. Away
The different colored uniform sets signified whether a team was home (at their own baseball stadium) or away. It was common that the team who was “home” would wear white, while the “away” team would wear a darker color. This was shown early on by the Brooklyn Superbas, who wore a blue pattern on the road.
The creation of uniforms also acted as a catalyst for selling baseball merchandise to help connect fans to players. This began with the oldest known baseball cards featuring the amateur team, the Brooklyn Atlantics, in 1865, which you would find in tobacco brand tins. This led to trading cards in 1927, card packs in 1952, and a slew of keychains, jerseys, and vintage baseball caps sold wholesale in the mid-1950s. Fans could now emulate their favorite players and represent their beloved teams.
When thinking about the evolution of baseball uniforms, it’s actually quite interesting to review the phases of an American history staple. Imagine what it was like getting the first pieces of merchandise for your favorite team—what a special feeling to be able to rep and honor your team and favorite player in that way.