Football players and rugby players get to wear different colors to games, based on their teams’ traditional color schemes, but baseball players are always entering the ball field in white pants.
The reason for this goes back a long way in history.
Why don’t baseball players wear different colors? There were times in history when colorful pants were appearing on baseball fields, but it’s thanks to a rule that was set in 1882 for players to wear white pants, white belts, and white ties for why we see baseball players wearing white pants today.
How the white baseball pants and uniform rule came about in 1882 was because players had been encouraged to wear different colors based on their positions in the game.
While this seemed like a good idea at the time, it caused mass confusion as it was hard to tell which players were teammates, so the rule was discarded, as Baseball Hall of Fame reports. Here’s more information about the history of baseball pants.
Were Baseball Pants Influenced By Color Television?
When color television was invented, it was hugely popular – and Charles Finley, who bought the Kansas City Athletics in the early 1960s, knew it. So, he kitted out his players in gold uniforms that were accessorized with a green trim.
This move was considered to be influenced by the arrival of color television, and it influenced other teams who jumped on the colorful bandwagon, in a sort of unplanned throwback to the events of 1882 mentioned earlier.
The problem with this was that some ridiculous uniforms hit the scene, with just one notable example being that of the 1979 Phillies who wore burgundy from top to bottom and had zips in their uniforms.
They were ridiculed by the media as well as their fans, so they scrapped the uniform after wearing it for just one game. There were many other teams who tried out crazy color trends, but that all came to an end by the 1980s.
However, sometimes we still see a splash of color in baseball.
The Phillies are, yet again, an example of this. Interestingly, in a recent game in which the Phillies played against the Braves, the team brought back their ‘70s burgundy uniforms for a one-night-only retro reminder to the world.
White Baseball Pants And Focusing On The Game
There’s no doubt that colorful, bold uniforms can be distracting – not just for fans but players, too.
The first team to wear white baseball pants were the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings and they are the team that made that basic baseball uniform the norm, even before the “white pants” rule was established.
As described on Sports Collectors Digest, the early style of baseball uniforms involved stylish touches like high collars, but these soon disappeared, which brought to life the “white at home and grey on the road” rule.
The question is, “Why?”
“This uniformity served the game well,” writer Mike Shannon writes in an article on Sports Collectors Digest, “allowing the principals to focus on the game itself, even if the more artistic and free-thinking elements of fandom found the sameness boring.”
It definitely makes sense to keep uniforms plain and simple so that concentration can be placed on the baseball game, which is where it should be. Baseball’s not supposed to be dominated by fashion, after all.
What Is The “Home Whites” Rule All About?
To this day, many baseball teams wear a home uniform that is predominantly white and called “home whites.”
But where did this rule come from?
Although it seems to have arisen out of a need for keeping baseball uniforms plain instead of fashionable, the reason for it was much more practical.
The rule is said to have originated in the early days of Major League Baseball.
The home team would wear white, but since the visiting team didn’t have access to laundry facilities because they were traveling, they would wear grey uniforms so that they didn’t have to worry about cleaning them if they became stained with dirt and grass during games.
Although this is considered to be a legend by some, the baseball uniform protocol of wearing “white at home and grey on the road” has stood the test of time since 1920, with most baseball teams today still wearing white when playing at home and slightly darker hues when they’re playing out of town.
In fact, this rule is even stated in the 2019 edition of rules on the Major League Baseball site, which states, “A league may provide that each team shall wear a distinctive uniform at all times, or that each team shall have two sets of uniforms, white for home games and a different color for road games.”
Baseball: A Game Of Tradition
White baseball pants are such a big staple of the game, and it’s easy to see why: they’re rooted in tradition.
Baseball is a sport that has many traditions, such as with its ceremonial first pitch and the 7th inning stretch that brings on the song, Take Me Out To The Ballgame.
Wearing white pants has become another one that doesn’t seem like it will disappear into the history books any time soon.
White baseball pants do look classy, as ESPN reports, but there’s another important reason why white baseball pants are such a classic – and it has nothing to do with how white is elegant.
It’s really about heat. Gaining greater protection from the sun requires wearing lighter colors that reflect, instead of absorb, the sun’s energy.
It must be terribly uncomfortable to play sport in intense heat conditions, and the practical move towards wearing a less absorbent color was made by the Pittsburgh team, the Pirates.
From 1977 to 1979 the Pirates had a total of three uniforms – a yellow one, white one, and black one – and they wore them for different reasons. As their equipment manager, John Hallahan, told Vault back in 1989, “If it was cold, we’d wear all black. And if it was hot, we’d wear the white.”
It makes sense!
What about pinstripes in baseball?
While white baseball pants are traditional, that doesn’t mean they can’t be given a tiny bit of color. Pinstripes first made an impact on baseball uniforms in 1907, when the Chicago Cubs became the first Major League Baseball team to wear them.
But many other teams soon followed their lead.
How do you clean white baseball pants?
White pants are tricky to clean. To do so, rinse them with cool water to remove loose dirt, then soak them with one-fourth cup of heavy-duty laundry detergent and a cup of baking soda to remove odor.
Wash them with cool water and detergent, using a permanent-press cycle, as The Spruce advises.
White baseball pants have a very colorful history, going back all the way into the 1800s. While it might sometimes seem boring for players to have to stick to the uniform rules in the sport that go back centuries, it’s also nice to know that the game is still rooted in tradition.