July 8, 2009
One thing that is unlikely to appear in a photograph of Boston Red Sox players is red socks. Players for Boston, like most players in professional baseball, have forsaken the knickers and high stockings that have been a distinctive element of the baseball uniform for 140 years.
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame web site, knickers were introduced to the game in 1868 by the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The innovation met with some resistence. The Hall of Fame site reports as follows:
“The showing of the manly leg in varied-colored hose … [was] unheard of, and when [team captain] Harry Wright occasionally appeared with the scarlet stockings, young ladies’ faces blushed as red, and many high-toned members of the club denounced the innovation as immoral and indecent.”
But stockings quickly became de riguer in the game and remained so for many decades. Now, however, in this epoch in which everyone does what he pleases, this tie to the past has been withering away. During last night’s game between the Yankees and the Twins, I counted only four men on the field wearing high stockings: Alex Rodriguez, R.A. Dickey, Joe Crede, and Brendan Harris. The rest looked like they were wearing their pajama bottoms — and walking on the hems at that. Besides looking foolish, they’re monkeying with something essential about The Game — its tradition.
Remember what Terence Mann told Ray Kinsella at the climax of “Field of Dreams”?
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”