This text was first published on on April 4, 2016 as part of an English project at McDaniel College. It has been edited for its purposes on this blog and can be read in its entirety and original form by clicking here. To learn more about Pastime Pinstripes, please read our post “The Grain of the Game Announces New Blog Features.”

Major League Baseball’s two leagues – National and American – have had an interesting history with one another. Known as the Senior Circuit, the National League was founded on February 2, 1876 and quickly took hold of professional baseball.

Twenty five years later came the American League, or Junior Circuit, on January 28, 1901. The new league was developed from the roots of the Western League, a minor league that rose to major league status after the American Association disbanded in the late 19th century.

As soon as the American League was formed, the National League recognized them as competition. The American League drew star players like Babe Ruth, one of the game’s most well-known players, among many others. Prior to the National League’s competition with the Junior Circuit, the League had competition with the American Association. When the American Association debuted in 1882, they did so in uniformed fashion.

The American Association instituted a uniform code across the board that all teams had to adhere to. Teams were differentiated from one another by the color of their socks. The National League followed suit, and mandated that all players were to wear white pants, belts, and ties. Colored shirts and hats represented what position they played. Like the Association, socks also differentiated teams from one another.

National League Position Color Shirts and Hats:

  • Pitchers – Light Blue
  • Catchers – Scarlet
  • First Basemen – Scarlet with white vertical stripes
  • Second Basemen – Orange with black vertical stripes
  • Third Basemen – Blue with white vertical stripes
  • Shortstops – Maroon
  • Left Fielders – White
  • Center Fielders – Red with black vertical stripes
  • Right Fielders – Gray
  • 1st Substitute – Green
  • 2nd Substitute – Brown

National League Team Color Socks:

  • Boston Red Caps – Red
  • Buffalo Bisons – Gray
  • Chicago White Stockings – White
  • Cleveland Blues – Navy
  • Detroit Wolverines – Old Gold
  • Providence Grays – Light Blue (sky)
  • Troy Trojans – Green
  • Worcester Ruby Legs – Brown

American Association Team Color Socks:

  • Baltimore Orioles – Yellow
  • Cincinnati Red Stockings – Red
  • Louisville Eclipse – Gray
  • Philadelphia Athletics – White
  • Pittsburgh Alleghenys – Black
  • St. Louis Browns – Brown

As could be expected from simply reading the above, the team-position organization, or lack thereof, was extremely confusing to both players and fans and was dropped halfway through the 1882 season.

Throughout the 1880s most teams wore a similar shirt. It featured a laced-front with a full collar, and the team’s city name sewn onto the front. By 1888 three teams had adopted pinstripes, the Washington Nationals and Detroit Wolverines (National League) and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (American Association. Despite many giving the current-day New York Yankees credit for being the bearers of pinstripes (and yes, they are in today’s game), it was these three teams that adopted the style first.


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