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Cycleback.com: Judging the Authenticity of Photographs

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EARLY BASEBALL FASHION AND EQUIPMENT

 

J.E. Clapp on the catwalk, 1874

 


A useful tool for giving an approximate date to a baseball photograph is to look at the fashion and equipment of the player or players.  The following is a brief summary of the changes in fashion and equipment of major teams, especially major league teams.  Exceptions and variations are to be found, especially with pictures of informal players.  A playground kid might have a slightly out of date glove.  A photograph might depict a lunch break team in their work clothes. 

The fashions and equipment described here were the standard of major teams, and, for the most part, were mimicked by other organized teams.  This following summary is by no means complete, and the collector may find it useful do his or her own research, by looking at photographs, cards, prints, equipment, equipment ads, magazines and books.

 

1867 New York Team, woodcut print

 

1860s

The uniforms were formal and do not look comfortable for a game. Most prominent, long pants were worn.  They usually looked like Civil War military pants, often with a stripe down the side of the leg.  The pants were usually tightened around the ankle by a clip.  The shoes were high tops, with heals and usually white.  The jerseys usually had bibs, and often with a bowtie or tie.  The team's name or letter often was on the jersey.  The hats were more like old fashion golfing caps than modern baseball caps.  The balls used were usually dark 'lemon peel' style, or a much rarer 'gusset' style.  Today's figure eight style ball was rarely used.  Baseball bats were very large and long.  There were no gloves or catcher's equipment. 

 

 

1870s

The uniforms of the 1870s were similar to the 1860s, except that knickers were usually worn.  The legendary Cincinnati Red Legs of 1869 first played with knickers. A few early 1870s teams, especially college teams, played with long pants, but for the most part knickers were here to stay.  The tall white shoes of the 1860s and cap were the same. Bow-ties or ties were usually worn.  The 1874 Boston Bostons were pictured with cleats on the shoes.   The first fielding glove, a fingerless unpadded glove, and catcher's mask appeared in the 1870s.  In the 1870s the modern ‘figure eight’ design ball was introduced, though the lemon peel style was most common. 

 

Connie Mack, 1887

 

1880s and 1890s

These two decades are similar in fashion.  The tall white shoes of were replaced with dark brown or black shorter high tops, I have seen a few early 1880s players wearing white shoes.   The cap was replaced with a starchier painter's-style cap.  Wide belts were worn. Uniforms became much more casual and tighter starting in the late 1880s.  Pleated pants were worn in the 1890s to early 1900s. Much new equipment was introduced.  In 1884 pitchers were allowed to pitch over arm, which will show up in their poses.  The catcher’s chest protector was introduced in 1884, the first padded fielder’s glove appeared in 1885, and the first padded catcher’s mitt in 1890.  In many photographs near the end of the 1890s, players are pictured in their warm-up sweaters. Until 1900, the home plate was rectangular instead of the modern 5 sided shape.

 

Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson in 1913.  Cobb has the one colored stirrup socks, while Jackson has the two colored stirrups (dark with light color at ancle).

 

1900s through 1920s

The uniforms from 1900 to 1930 were similar, expect for a few details.  By the 1900s the painter’s-like cap was replaced by the modern cap except it had a thin brim. A few teams, in particular the Philadelphia Athletics, wore pillbox caps.  Uniforms, both tops and bottoms, became baggy, almost sack-like.  Belts were wide, though not as wide as the 1890s, and became thinner as the years went by.  In the early 1900s, jerseys had either high collars (with the jersey either buttoned up or string-tied), or short Nehru-style.  As the years went by most teams adopted the no-collar, button up jersey, as is worn today.  In 1907, Roger Bresnahan was the first major leaguer to wear catcher’s shin guards.  In the 1900s, while some players stuck to the dark colored high tops shoes, more and more players wore low tops, usually dipping below or to the ankle, often with a large leather tongue folded over the laces.  By 1920 most players wore this type of shoe.  About 1910 sock stirrups first appeared.  At the begging the stirrup was dark colored except for the bottom of the stirrup, which was the same color as the white sock underneath.  This gave the appearance to distant observer that no stirrup was worn.  By the 1920s stirrups were a single dark color, making them obvious against the light colored sock beneath.  In 1911, the New York Yankees first received permission to use pinstripes.  Some other teams followed and by 1920 many teams had pinstripes.

 

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Cycleback.com: Judging the Authenticity of Photographs

© david rudd cycleback, cycleback.com