Clair: The long history of baseball’s most glorious accessory, the stirrup sock

From SABR member Michael Clair at MLB’s Cut 4 on December 16, 2015, with mention of SABR member John Thorn:

Baseball uniforms are a unique beast. The shirts have buttons (though, for some reason, they don’t count as “formal wear” at weddings), the pants have belts and the players need to wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes. But nothing is as unique to baseball as the stirrup sock.

The tradition can be traced back to 1868, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to expose their socked legs.

MLB’s official historian, John Thorn, says that the team’s owners were “trying to create a sensation,” presumably to boost attendance and the team’s profile. Pulling up the pants to more closely resemble a cricketer’s uniform also had one other benefit: “High socks displayed manly calves, which the ladies liked.”

But Cincinnati’s players just wore regular socks during that time. The garment known as the stirrup wouldn’t come into existence until 1905. That year, Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland Naps (named for Lajoie and not, sadly, for the supreme joy they received from afternoon snoozes), would play in only 65 games due to blood poisoning after he was spiked on a slide. Since clothing dyes weren’t colorfast in those days, it was assumed that the dye in the fabric had seeped into Lajoie’s wound, causing the injury.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: December 16, 2015. Last Updated: December 16, 2015.