Denny G. asks: Why do baseball managers wear the team’s uniform instead of a suit or something like that like you see in other sports? It especially seems weird because managers in baseball seem to universally let themselves go after their playing days are over and tubby old men do not look good in sports uniforms!
Football coaches wear clothes bearing their team’s logo thanks to the NFL’s push to sell more merchandise. Basketball coaches stand on the sideline in collared shirts and blazers looking for a neat, professional look. And then there are baseball managers who dress in the team uniform, as if they are planning on joining their players on the baseball diamond. Despite that today’s managers are universally beyond the point where they could play at a level worthy of putting them in the field, the tradition of them wearing the team uniform dates back to a time when that’s exactly what they did.
Specifically, the position that managers hold today used to be typically held by the team captain. This person was a player responsible for making decisions about plays on the field during the game. He wore the team uniform because he often took to the field to play alongside his teammates.
Over the course of baseball history, managers gradually stopped going onto the field to play alongside the men that they coached. As this happened, contrary to what you see today, a few of them began to distance themselves from the tradition of wearing a uniform. Instead, they wore suits while managing. In fact, famed manager Connie Mack wore a business suit for each of the fifty years that he managed the Athletics. A former manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Burt Sutton, also shunned his team’s uniform. But this wasn’t the norm and their idea for how a team manager should look failed the test of time.
John Thorn, the official historian of the MLB, has his own take on why this is the case. “Maybe it’s just a testament to the notion that, no matter how old you get, between your ears you think that you’re a baseball player.” After all, the body gets old, but so often, particularly if those you hang around are younger (and in this case incredibly athletic), the mind still feels like you’re young and vibrant as ever. Many MLB managers also have been wearing a baseball uniform since they were little kids, so it may just seem more comfortable for them, despite their expanding girths.
As for the official rules on uniforms, we have Rule 1.11, Section a, number 1 and 3 where it states: “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style… No player whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to participate in a game.”
The official rulebook further goes on to state in Rule 2 that “A COACH is a team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach…” Also in Rule 2, “THE MANAGER is a person appointed by the club to be responsible for the team’s actions on the field, and to represent the team in communications with the umpire and the opposing team. A player may be appointed manager.”
As you can see from this, while players and coaches are explicitly required to wear uniforms, there is no mention of managers specifically needing to wear the team’s uniform, nor will you find such a reference explicitly stated anywhere in the rule book. In fact, they even allude to the fact that managers are not required to wear a uniform in rule 3.15: “No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers…” mentioning that players and coaches must be “in uniform” but putting managers in a different category.
That said, there is one references in the rulebook that could be interpreted as managers being required to wear the team’s uniform, found in Rule 2 where it states a, “BENCH OR DUGOUT is the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on…
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