As the NFL and NBA dominate the American sports media market, baseball has been steadily decreasing in viewership and popularity. Even though baseball is still considered to be our national pastime, its decline is puzzling. Truth be told, baseball just doesn’t stand up to other more aggressive, spectacle driven games like football. The sport used to be revered for its beauty and leisurely quality. Who didn’t look forward to spending a nice summer day out at the ballpark, relaxing and chatting with friends, hot dog in hand, with the baseball diamond as your backdrop? The sport prides itself on its skill and tradition, with the nostalgia factor being its number one attribute, but when that draw doesn’t compare to the high-energy aggression and spectacle of other sports, changes must be made to keep the game competitive. Baseball has already been forced to compete in the national media market by incorporating instant replay into the game to keep up with technological advances, adjusting rules and regulations to speed up play, and even participating in media scandals to increase presence in the public eye (i.e. the Steroid Era). Although many of these alterations and adjustments to the game have made baseball traditionalists and fanatics critical of the sport’s future, I believe the criticism falls instead on the image of the game and its players.
Baseball’s nostalgia-inducing imagery has become an icon in the nation’s sports history. The classic-look of the baseball uniform, including the cap, knickers, and knee high socks has defined the sport as well as individual teams. The style gave identity to franchises that fans know and love today like the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox. Consider the New York Yankee’s pinstripe pants, as well. The baseball uniform became an identifier. But in recent years, spectators have been robbed of the sleek, classic style prevalent in baseball with the introduction of new uniform rules and regulations that have given way to the unflattering, pajama-style baseball pant. This abhorrent look has done away with the eye-catching namesakes of both Sox teams and has also been the death of the aesthetically pleasing, gentlemanly look of the sport itself. More importantly, it has robbed viewers of the ability to enjoy the glutes that these players train so hard to maintain. Even during the most uneventful baseball game, at least spectators could discuss the way that baseball pants, unlike any other sports garment, really showcased these players’ assets. It added a completely new dimension to the game and helped to diversify its fan base.
Throughout the years, baseball fashion has evolved immensely, and the flattery of baseball pants was discovered as a result. In the early years of baseball, players wore pantaloons that reflected the style of the time, with large, flowing pant-legs, but players soon realized how encumbered they were by the pants and would find innumerable ways to keep themselves from tripping over them. One of the methods to keep the pants from inhibiting play was to tie them to one’s ankles, which eventually led players to wear knee-high socks as an alternative. This innovation in performance also paved the way for even more evolution to the style of the sport. After the Babe Ruth era of 20s baseball and the knickers, pant lines narrowed and Joe DiMaggio showcased the mid-calf look . Later, Sandy Koufax amongst other players of the 60s found the perfect combination of pant length and sock, showcasing the athletic forms of these players while providing comfort as well.
At this point baseball pants started to reflect modern fashion trends, as the spandex got tighter through the 70s, and thus reaching the apex of baseball style. The look was slick, it was clean, and it brought the idea of the ‘baseball butt’ to the forefront of the game. This is also at a time when female sexuality became more open and accepted and no doubt the presence of well-sculpted behinds helped to draw more fans of the female variety. This made baseball a sport that the whole family could truly enjoy. But as baggy pants of the 80s and 90s came into fashion, the tight look of baseball pants also faded, eventually ushering in an era that rid itself of the iconic baseball socks and emphasized the leisure of the sport. According to Paul Lukas this decision was offensive to any sort of traditionalist, “There’s a reason we have teams with names like the Red Sox and White Sox, and that’s that hosiery was considered a key component of the uniform. Now it’s more like an optional piece of equipment, like a batting glove or a shin guard, instead of a uniform element.” In many ways this change contradicted the atmosphere surrounding other sports. Football and basketball thrived at the time due to their emphasis of the elite physical form, and became less and less conservative in their promotion of image. This is where baseball made the worst decision of its existence and shot itself in the foot; pajama pants. In a sport where skill takes priority over the image of athleticism, the introduction of the “pajama” pant killed the game. “I’m incredulous,” said Tim Gunn, the host of “Project Runway.” “You’ve taken away all of the visual appeal, allure and sexy swagger, and given us a look that would only look at home in a bed.” Without the “sexy swagger” as Tim Gunn so eloquently describes, baseball has lost another battle to football in the butt category only rubbing dirt in the spectatorship wound. The only solution: the return of the glutes.