The World’s Worst-Dressed Men

Some of the snow melted over this weekend, which got me looking forward to a little to spring and, of course, the start of baseball season. This evening I read a few tidbits about spring training on the Red Sox message board (which is admittedly one of the dorkiest sites on the entire Wide World of Web… you can find pages and pages of scatter graphs demonstrating some pitcher’s release point or pitch selection, for example) and learned that there’s a flap about a player wanting the same number that’s currently worn by a bench coach. This led to a hefty discussion of baseball’s unique convention of dressing managers and coaches in the same outfits worn by players, with comments like:

I think it is pretty stupid coaches still have numbers in baseball considering there isn’t a single other sport in the world that coaches wear numbers. Why does a coach care about his number?

… and this:

I don’t see how managers dressing similarly to, say, football coaches would be too detrimental.

Now, it’s true that baseball managers are the ugliest men in the world, and that the tradition of dressing them up like players only accentuates this:

And it’s clearly a dubious idea, making 70 year-old men dress up like uniforms that were (a) designed for men 50 years younger and (b) are antiquated to begin with, having been designed about 100 years ago and barely modified since then. But still, I’ve always thought it would be great to take this in the other direction and make coaches/managers in all sports dress up in players uniforms. Wouldn’t it have been great to see the famously overweight Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden in a basketball uni, standing on the sidelines with a clipboard and giant purple tanktop?

Or a middle-aged football coach clanking out onto the field with all the pads and helmet on and trying to communicate with everyone and run the show? Much more fun, I say.

I do periodically get an inferiority complex comparing baseball to other sports on an aesthetic level, especially if Europeans are involved. I can vividly remember switching between a Sox game and World Cup soccer when I was in grade school and realizing that my mother clearly had a crush on the Italians’ brooding coach and realizing that this affection would never, ever translate over to the Red Sox skipper.

(Top photo: Jim Leyland, who is the only manager to pull of the uniform look, largely because he already seems like a grizzled 19th century volunteer fireman, and so the garb only increases his already-considerable surreality. Leyland also smoked cigarettes in the dugouts during games long after it was acceptable/legal. Here, he’s shown in the endlessly-maligned stovepipe hats that the Pittsburgh Pirates wore during the 70s and 80s. Image courtesy of Ugly Baseball Card blog)

4 thoughts on “The World’s Worst-Dressed Men”

  1. Ah! seeing that old Pirates uniform reminds of the Philadelphia Flyers playing in Cooper hockey pants for a season. Must be the the water in PA.

  2. I’d never thought about it before, but you’re right, baseball is the only sport with old men in uniforms (unless one includes amateur golf). I think the reason is rule 3.15 which states:

    3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club.

  3. Yeah: somebody on the Red Sox message board thread later pointed out that baseball is the only sport where the coach/manager is directly involved in the field of play, rather than just standing on the sidelines. I think you’re right that the tradition is based somewhere in these subtle distinctions.

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