There’s something about a baseball coach in a uniform that just seems to fit. Maybe it’s the sense of authority that comes with it, or the feeling of stability it provides. Whatever the reason, baseball coaches have been wearing uniforms for as long as the game has been around. Let’s take a look at why they wear uniforms and some of the history behind them.
- Baseball coaches wear uniforms because it has been a tradition in professional baseball since before 1900.
- In the early days of baseball, the leader of a baseball team was called a captain (nowadays called a manager). It was also common at that time for the captain to play in the game, like today’s team captain roles in major sports. As there was not a sole person designated to manage a baseball team, everyone would wear a uniform.
- At the college level, all coaches are required to wear numbered team uniforms like the players. In MLB, there is no rule requiring coaches to have unique numbers–they do need to have numbers on the jersey as well.
Of all the major professional team sports in America (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer), when you see the coach (or manager), they are not dressed in a full competitive uniform, except for one sport–baseball. Why is that? There are two reasons: One reason makes a lot of sense, and the other? Maybe not so much.
Why do baseball coaches wear uniforms?
Baseball coaches wear uniforms because it has been a tradition in professional baseball since before 1900. There is also a more practical reason.
In the early days of baseball, before 1900, the leader of a baseball team was called a captain (nowadays called a manager). It was the captain’s job to set the lineups, make pitching changes, and create strategies. It was also common at that time for the captain to play in the game, like today’s team captain roles in major sports.
So, because there was not a sole person designated to manage a baseball team, everyone would wear a uniform. It was not until later in the early 1900s that baseball teams had the financial resources to hire someone specifically to manage and not play.
In the video below, enjoy a brief explanation directly from MLB on why coaches wear uniforms and pay special attention to the answer from the Minnesota Twins manager.
Are all baseball coaches required to wear uniforms?
While there is no specific dress code for managers in MLB, the rulebook states: “no person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers….” The list goes on, but the rules are clear: the first and third base coaches must wear a uniform as well as any other coach that goes onto the field (like the pitching coach).
For managers, while they do enter the field of play, MLB has a relaxed rule that allows managers to wear an alternate top, such as a jacket or hooded sweatshirt, instead of a jersey.
At the college level, coaches have the same uniform regulations as the pros. Base coaches must be dressed in full uniform but are allowed to wear team jackets if they are within uniform regulations.
From the high school level down to the little league, uniform rules are determined at a local level. Most of these leagues do not have formal dress codes, as many coaches are volunteers.
Do coaches have uniform numbers like players do?
At the college level, all coaches are required to wear numbered team uniforms like the players. In MLB, there is no rule requiring coaches to have unique numbers–they do need to have numbers on the jersey as well.
An example of this happened in 2015. Detroit Tigers hall of fame shortstop Alan Trammell wore number 3 during his days as a player and manager, spanning from the late 1970s to 2005. On his return to the team as a base coach, he once again wore his number 3 even though second baseman Ian Kinsler already had that number.
Are coaches required to wear a full uniform?
Coaches that take the field as base coaches must wear a full uniform. Some will wear batting helmets instead of regular caps for safety, but they are always in uniform.
For managers, they are allowed to wear different clothing because there is no specific rule stating what a manager must wear. Even with that freedom, most managers will still wear a full uniform or at least the uniform pants with a team jacket, sweatshirt, and hat.
Does anyone still coach and play for the same team?
No, there are no longer any player-managers in MLB. The last person to hold that role was Pete Rose, who played for and managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1984-1986.
In all, there have been 221 player-managers in the history of MLB. Over 25% of them are in the hall of fame. Below, you will see the highlights from Pete Rose’s return to Cincinnati as a player-manager and listen to the crowd’s reaction when the manager hits an RBI double.
Is baseball the only professional sport where coaches wear uniforms?
Yes, baseball is the only professional sport where the coaches and managers wear the same uniform as the players.
Do assistant baseball coaches wear uniforms?
Yes, assistant coaches that do not step onto the field still wear uniforms. Examples are a hitting coach, a bullpen coach, and a bench coach. Each position is necessary for the team, but none of them needs to enter the field of play for any reason.
Nowadays, the coaches who do not take the field usually wear whatever the team manager wears. Whether that is a hooded sweatshirt, windbreaker, or full jersey, the coaching staff will maintain uniformity in how they dress.
Has a baseball coach refused to wear a uniform?
Some managers have refused to wear a uniform, but that has not happened in a long time. Baseball historians have credited Hall of Famer Connie Mack as the first team manager to refuse to wear a uniform. He chose to wear a suit instead. There was no rule stating it could not be done, but he was not allowed to step onto the field, so he had to send in messages with his uniformed coaches.
The last time baseball managers wore suits on a regular basis was in the 1940s and earlier. Most notably, Branch Rickey of the Cardinals and Burt Shotton of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
What was the worst baseball manager’s uniform?
This is a hot topic among baseball historians. Currently, the worst-dressed baseball manager of all time is a tossup between Hall of Fame manager Frank Robinson, who managed the 1975 Cleveland Guardians (then known as the Cleveland Indians), and Roland Hemond, who managed the Chicago White Sox in 1976.
In the video below, you will see MLB’s very own top nine countdowns of the worst. Wait until the very end when you see the butterfly collars and shorts (yes, they wore shorts) of the White Sox.
The dress code
While the dress code for baseball coaches seems strange, it is only because the game has evolved. Baseball has become such a lucrative sport that players no longer must manage and vice versa.
Before the 1920s, having a team manager who also played was typical. The ones that filled this role were popular at the time. But as the sport grew and teams could afford to pay someone to manage a team, no one wanted to break the uniform tradition. It is those small quirks that bring the fun to the game.
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