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October 22, 2022

Vintage Portrait of Members of the New York Knickerbockers, the First Baseball Team to Wear Uniforms, ca. 1847

The New York Knickerbockers baseball club, seen here wearing some decidedly un-sporty straw hats. Sure, they look more like a barbershop quartet than a bunch of athletes. But they also look pretty damn dapper.

The New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club, clockwise from top left: Alfred Cartwright, Alexander Cartwright, William Wheaton, Henry Tiebout Anthony, Daniel “Doc” Adams, and Duncan Curry, ca. 1847.

The New York Knickerbockers were one of the first organized baseball teams which played under a set of rules similar to the game today. Founded as the “Knickerbocker Base Ball Club” by Alexander Cartwright in 1845, the team remained active until the early 1870s.

They were the first baseball team to wear uniforms, taking the field on April 4, 1849, in pants made of blue wool, white flannel shirts and straw hats. While the straw hats only lasted a few years, the team’s colors of blue and white remained for decades. The practice of wearing a uniform soon spread, and by 1900, all Major League Baseball teams had adopted them.

By 1882 most uniforms included stockings, which covered the leg from foot to knee, and were used to differentiate one club from another. The uniforms themselves had different colors and patterns that reflected the different baseball positions. In the late 1880s, the Detroit Wolverines and Washington Nationals of the National League and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association were the first to wear striped uniforms.


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