I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: On the one hand, we are extremely fortunate to live in an era in which online databases allow us to look up the uniform histories of MLB, the NFL, the NHL, the NBA, college football helmets, and more. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the researchers and historians who compiled those sites. But on the other hand, as we’ve seen many times over the years, those databases can sometimes be erroneous or incomplete, so it’s important to remember that there’s still a lot of previously undocumented uni history waiting to be discovered.
The latest example of that came a few days ago, when uni designer/historian Todd Radom tweeted the astonishing news that several Yankees wore red undershirts at various points in the 1920s — something that he (and I) had never heard about before.
Todd’s tweet included two pieces of supporting evidence. The first was a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about Game One of the 1927 World Series, indicating that six Yankees were wearing red undersleeves with their grey road uniforms:
Todd also provided a 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about how six Yankees, along with mascot Eddie Bennett, wore red undershirts with their home pinstripes for a late-season doubleheader in 1929:
That last article mentions that the six players wore the red base layers “primarily to keep warm,” although it’s not clear (at least to me) why red shirts would be any warmer than the team’s usual undershirts. Speaking of which: You might assume that the Yanks’ standard undershirts during this period were navy. But according to Dressed to the Nines (which, again, we should not treat as gospel, although it’s a good starting point), they were actually white:
In any case, I found the red revelation to be pretty mind-blowing. I wanted to know more, so I emailed Todd and asked if he had specifically gone looking for this information (maybe after hearing rumors about the red sleeves?), or if he’d just stumbled across it while researching something else.
“As is usually the case, I totally stumbled upon it — a lucky accident,” he replied. He then shared a few more red-referencing articles he’d uncovered, beginning with this one, which mentions that two Yankees pitchers wore red undershirts in Game Six of the 1921 World Series:
Next up was this 1924 New York Daily News article about how the Yankees had divided into two factions — those who wore the red sleeves and those who disdained them, with the latter camp believing that the red gear was bad luck:
Todd says Yanks pitcher Bob Shawkey, who pitched for the Bronx Bombers from 1915 through 1927, was particularly associated with the red trend, to the point that he was actually nicknamed “Mr. Red Sleeves.” This 1924 article from the Republican and Herald, a Pennsylvania paper, attributes the red trend to him (and also mentions that several Giants players were wearing red sleeves in spring training that year — perhaps a subject for further study):
Although Shawkey retired after the 1927 season, the Yanks were still wearing red sleeves in spring training the following year, as indicated in this article:
This isn’t the first time Todd has uncovered a major uni-historical storyline. Back in 2013, he (re)discovered why the Dodgers’ front jersey numbers are red. Much like the red undershirts, the red numbers weren’t some obscure footnote at the time — whole articles were written about them. But for whatever reason, the story never became canonized and thus never became part of the uni-verse’s oral history or institutional memory. Moments like this serve as a good reality check — a way of reminding us that there’s still a lot of uniform history out there waiting to be (re)discovered. (And, of course, they also show what a great research and historian Todd is!)
Meanwhile: How can we convince the Yankees to wear red sleeves for a throwback games?