Different sports have many different customs and traditions. In each sport, the level of fair play and sportsmanship varies greatly. In football, it is not unusual to see a player dive to the ground and roll around without receiving contact. While in rugby it is not unusual to see a player with a dislocated bone push it back in and continue playing. One of the oddest differences in sports is how manager’s dress. The strangest manager attire without a doubt is baseball, the way they dress is unparalleled in the world of sport.
In 2012 when Chelsea won the Europa League their captain John Terry was not involved. He had received a red card in the semi-final and was unable to take part. In the final moments of the game, Branislav Ivanovic scored the winner for Chelsea and ensured they would win the game. Terry who had been wearing a suit the entire game left the scene and quickly remerged wearing the full Chelsea football kit. As if he had been playing the entire game he led the celebrations for the team. While this can almost be understood the fact that he decided to wear shin pads, boots, and even sock tape is pretty strange. Throughout history when this has happened players have generally remained in their suits and enjoyed the celebrations all the same, not John Terry.
Terry received a lot of mocking on the internet for his decision and will likely be remembered for this moment instead of many of his greater achievements. While this is strange it is impossible not to cast a similar eye on baseball managers. Despite having no function on the field of play it is the standard for all baseball managers to wear a full kit during the game as if they were players. In every other sport in the world, this is not the case.
In football, managers either wear full suits or some form of tracksuit, never the football kit. In basketball, managers usually dress in shirts and trousers. In American football, the most money-hungry sport in the world, managers do wear team-branded clothing but they would never wear the full kit. So why is baseball so different?
Baseball is a strange sport. It is a sport that loves tradition and holds on as tight as it can. If you ask any baseball manager today why they wear the full kit, that will be their answer. Tradition. Tradition is another way of saying we don’t know why but the previous guys did it. That may be the best explanation.
If you look at the rule book of baseball it is ambiguous and in some phrasing, it could be conceived that the manager is a team member and therefore required to wear a uniform but looking in more detail at the rule book, that just doesn’t stack up. It makes it pretty clear they don’t have to wear a full kit.
In the old days, it was more common to have a player-manager role in baseball and the tradition may have started there. Perhaps other managers were jealous that player-managers were in the full kit and decided they would wear it too. Maybe the managers have never stopped being the small boy who wanted to wear the sport’s kit with pride. Perhaps they wear that kit every day because they want to be a part of the team.
John Terry later explained that he had dreamed of that moment many times and wanted nothing to take away from it. When he puts it like that you can almost understand. A man in his final years taking a last chance at the perfect celebration. Perhaps the managers of baseball can relate.