Red Sox Uniforms | Facts and Trivia
A compendium of facts and trivia about the Red Sox uniforms:
On December 18, 1907, shortly after Boston’s National League team revealed that the new uniforms for 1908 eliminated their customary red stockings, owner John I. Taylor of the Boston Americans pounced. He quickly decided that his team would adopt red hose and call themselves the Boston Red Sox. Taylor personally oversaw the uniform design, selecting red stockings because Boston’s first professional baseball team — the Red Stockings — had worn them. Taylor appreciated the link with tradition. It was predicted that the name “Red Sox” would prove a popular choice.
Was Taylor imprudently putting the health, or even the lives of his players in jeopardy? Historian Ellery Clark wrote that the owners of the National League team, George and John Dovey, “decided the red dye in their club’s stockings might well lead to blood infection and even worse if and when or more of their players were cut in the leg by opposing spikes. The grand old color and the nickname were abandoned in the interests of health.”
Rash though Taylor’s decision may have been, generations of Red Sox players have come and gone with no documented case of red dye disease.
Baseball uniforms were traditionally made of wool flannel, which were durable but sometimes seemed exceptionally hot. There are tales of a ballplayer losing five or six pounds while playing the old St. Louis Browns in midsummer. The older fabric “breathed,” though, in a way that some of the knit polyester wear of the last couple of decades of the 20th century did not.
Red Sox in pinstripes? From 1912-1931, both home and road unis were with pinstripes.
The standard “B” cap is de riguer throughout most of New England, though in recent years it’s become available in pink, in camouflage, and other fashion variations. The team itself has almost invariably worn a navy blue cap since 1933 save for a flirtation with red in the middle 1970s. For the 2009 season, the Sox adopted an alternative cap with the “hanging sox” logo, reviving a device used in one earlier season — 1931 — both on the cap and the left sleeve.
In addition to the “hanging sox” cap, 1931 was also the first year that the Red Sox wore numbers on the back of their jerseys. The highest number yet issued to a player is the 84 given to J.T. Snow, which he wore in 2006 as a tribute to his pro football father, the late Jack Snow.
Since 1969, one person, Valentina Federico, who works out of the Riddell All-American Sports shop in Somerville, Massachusetts, has sewn the numbers for all the Red Sox jerseys.
Some players are tougher on unis than others. Riddell’s Neil DeTeso — who launders all the uniforms for the Sox, Patriots, and a couple of hundred schools in the Greater Boston area — dubs Youkilis and Pedroia the “pine tar kids.” Nomar often had more patches on his pants than any other player of his day, but the roughest of all in Neil’s 31 years on the job was Jose Canseco.
In all those 31 years, how many Sox tops have gone astray? Not a single one that was in his care, says DeTeso.
Ted Williams was well-known for his refusal to doff his cap to the cheering crowds, but in his rookie year — 1939 — he played right field and often tipped his cap, as Eddie Collins’ secretary said: “When he’d hit a home run, he’d reach for the button on top of his cap with the tips of his fingers as he rounded first base. Then he’d lift it off his head about three inches and let it plop back on top of his head.”
One piece of headgear Williams never wore was a batting helmet. Beginning in 1971, helmets were required throughout baseball. Red Sox catcher Bob Montgomery wore all sorts of protective gear, but then-current players were grandfathered. Monty eschewed the helmet and in 1979 became the last batter to hit without one.