By Glen Sparks
Do pinstripes make the man slimmer?
One baseball story you often hear is that the New York Yankees added pinstripes to their home uniforms as a way to make a rotund Babe Ruth appear trimmer. The story is worth a chuckle. But, it isn’t true.
The Yankees, actually, still the Highlanders, first wore pinstripes in 1912. At the time, Ruth was just 17 years old and ripping baseballs around the yard at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. George Herman Ruth Jr., a truant and trouble-maker, fit the admission qualifications nicely.
Fashion often being fleeting, the Yankees ditched the pinstripes for their 1913 campaign. That season and in 1914, they stitched an interlocking “NY” onto a plain white home uniform. The pinstripes returned for good on the home unis on this date in 1915.
Ruth was 20 years old and playing in his second season for the Boston Red Sox. He went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA (114 ERA+) in 217.2 innings. The Babe did not become a full-time hitter until 1919, and he did not move over to the Yankees until 1920, or in year No. 6 of the Pinstripe Era.
Further, images of Ruth as a beer-bellied basher tell only the story of an aging superstar. In his heyday, Ruth did not pack nearly as much weight, or girth, onto his 6-foot-2-inch frame. He was barrel-chested, along with being pigeon-toed, but he was certainly not fat. Babe Ruth was an outstanding athlete.
It also should be noted that the Yanks did not introduce pinstripes to major league uniforms. The Chicago Cubs did that with their road uniforms in 1907.
No team does pinstripes quite like the Yankees, though. Fans talk about Dodger blue, Cardinal red and Yankee pinstripes (navy blue in color). The Bronx Bombers have won a record 40 American League pennants and a record 27 World Series, not one them before going to pinstripes.
Recently retired Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said: “You say pinstripes and the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the Yankees. There’s just so much history there and tradition, it makes it special for us as players.”
Maybe the pinstripes did make Babe Ruth look slimmer. Maybe the Babe just looked great in a baseball uniform.