Sometimes, baseball is a piñata: exciting, haphazard clusters of elmer’s glue and papier-mâché. Upon striking with a bat, small treasures erupt from within… and children scramble on the ground to gather them, bloodied knees altogether disregarded.
Other times, baseball is a biology textbook: a steady outpouring of both information and uniformity, the margins flooded with patterns and pictures that necessitate pause and contemplation and sighs and beard-stroking and calculators.
In today’s Throwback Thursday, we take further inspection into the specific history of one of the game’s most obvious patterns: the baseball uniform, and specifically, the colors of such, and the information-gathering that is thereby presented.
Although there are instances when baseball uniforms are very very disgustingly akin to piñatas (here’s looking at you, 70′s ‘Stros), there is usually a level of intentionally recognizable repetition that the experienced viewer-fan likely takes for granted.
If you’ve made it this far, we agree on a few things: baseball is a piñata and a biology textbook. But would you believe me still if I told you that a shirt is a compass, a road map, and a tour guide? It’s true, but not of just any shirt. Yes, many shirts can tell you where you’ve been: sweat stains, a smear of buffalo sauce, wafts of cheap cologne, or ”I heart NY” in bold lettering. But the shirt that tells you where you are, that, my friends, is the shirt worth mentioning.
A shirt that tells you where you are… And you won’t even need to trouble your mind with reading anything. Pay no mind to the Arizonas and Chicagos and Minnesotas, like siren songs, they will only distract and misguide you. Ignore the embroidery and look at the shirt’s color, the shade.
Since 1911, home teams traditionally wear white uniforms, and away teams wear gray. According to urban-wikipedian legend, and I really happen to like this one so I hope it is true [citation needed ha], road uniforms are gray because back in baseball’s stone age, the visiting team would likely not have access to laundry facilities. Therefore, a darker away uniform was fabricated in order to better conceal the unavoidable barrage of unsightly stains from grass, dirt, dip, tar, etc.
Yet, like in our biology textbook example, we must not fail to admit that there is an exception to any rule. Sometimes baseball teams wear shirts in brilliant gold and scarlet and powder blue that are absolutely neither white nor gray, and we can no longer fully depend on them as compasses. If this poses a problem and you still can’t come up with another way to find out what ballpark you’re sitting in… I’m quite concerned for you, and the beer barkers should have refused you service several brews ago. But here’s a hint: try checking your ticket stub.
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.