Most of us know that baseball players wear long pants instead of shorts when playing, unlike basketball, tennis, and other outdoor sports. However, it does seem odd when you consider that baseball is played in the summer heat, so wouldn’t shorts make more sense? This logic has led many to wonder why baseball pants are long.
Baseball pants are long for many reasons, like protection against sliding into the bases. Over time sliding in shorts will take its toll on a player and result in more than a skinned knee. It also helps protect against the metal cleats of players from the other team, and it looks more professional.
Over the years, standard baseball uniforms have evolved to give players as much protection as possible against injury. Modern uniform pants are more comfortable, maneuverable, and loosely form-fitting, so players don’t trip over their pants. We will look at how baseball pants evolved into the long pants the players wear today.
Why Are Baseball Pants So Long?
Have you ever wondered why baseball players wear long pants instead of shorts when playing? Baseball is played in the summer so that shorts would be more comfortable, and the player would move easier. Unfortunately, that is not the case in baseball, and here is why,
- Long baseball pants are safer and provide the player with more leg protection when sliding into bases,
- Long baseball pants are safer than short pants as they protect the player from opposing sliding player’s cleats,
- They look much more professional than shorts or knee-length pants.
Baseball pants have come a long way since the first baseball clubs wore blue wool pants. The nature of the sport means the players spend a lot of time making direct contact with the ground. Short are not safe to wear as they are open-ended, meaning they can easily bundle up and leave more of the player’s legs vulnerable to injury.
They only cover the top half of the player’s legs, so the players sliding into the bases will have no protection between their legs and the rough ground. That is why most baseball players wear long, reinforced pants with padded areas to help absorb the impact when players fall or slide into the bases.
Modern baseball pants are made from lightweight polyester with moisture-wicking technology built into the fabric of the pants. It improves the player’s comfort and helps them stay cooler in the heat of summer. That way, if a player sweats, the fabric will remain dry. It also helps the players dry off quickly when they sweat.
The players can choose between two styles of long pants, open hems or closed hems. Most baseball teams have a preferred style, but most are long to protect the players better.
How Did Baseball Pants Evolve Over The Last 200 Years?
The first official baseball uniform was worn in 1860 by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York. The pants were blue knickers, also called pantaloons by many. This style of baseball pants would become the knicker-style pants and were full-length heavy wool pants fitted with hip pockets.
These full-length knicker-style pants would be the norm for around 20 years. Then, around 1860, many baseball clubs started experimenting with different styles, fabrics, and lengths of pants to help their players play better.
Their main issue with the knicker style was that it was too thick, would make the players sweat because it was made of wool (especially in the summer), didn’t offer much protection, and was uncomfortable to run in as it had wide-leg openings.
Some of the clubs started to use belts to close the leg openings. In contrast, others opted for a more practical solution by adding a row of buttons down the side of the leg openings. Hence, they are form-fitting and won’t interfere with the player’s maneuverability.
In 1867, one baseball club (The Cincinnati Red Stockings) started to use padded knicker-style knee-length pants. The idea behind this style was that the padded pants would protect them from the dangers of sliding into the bases while being short enough so they don’t trip. They got the idea from looking at cricket uniforms; these pants were also comfortable and not as hot during summer.
Most of the baseball clubs started to wear knee-length kicker-style pants and saw it as an opportunity to get creative with colored knee-length socks. These colorful socks are where many team nicknames, like the Boston Red Socks and Chicago White socks, come from.
This style of baseball pants became the standard for all baseball teams until the 1920s. That is when the jean craze started to take hold in many sectors. It didn’t last, though, because, by the mid to late 1920s, most clubs ditched the jeans as they were uncomfortable and not easy to run in.
Most players returned to wearing knee-length knicker-style pants with long socks. The problem with using the knee-length knicker-style padded pants was they still had the bowed and loose style that added extra weight and heat to the players. In addition, the padded areas only protected one-half of the player’s legs, and some found the long socks stifling and uncomfortable.
During this time, one player stood out, and that was Carl Hubbell, who played his entire 15-year career for the New York Giants. Hubbel preferred long looser fitting pants with a belt and short socks over the leg openings. It even earned him the nickname “Old Long Pants.”
It wasn’t long until his style rubbed off on other baseball players. After his retirement in 1943, many other players were sporting the long pants, including famous players like Mickey Mantle and Bob Gibson.
The knee-length knicker style came back in fashion in the late 1970s and stayed until the early 1990s when most baseball teams started opting for longer and, thus, safer baseball pants.
Baseball pants started as blue wool knickers in 1840, but the clubs soon found that they were too loose and very uncomfortable to wear when playing in the hot summertime. After the long wool pants, players preferred the shorter knee-length knicker-style pants, but that offered little protection from injury. Modern baseball pants are long to protect players from getting hurt.