The Strange Underwear Requirement Baseball Umpires Have To Follow

Baseball is one of the most popular and enduring sports in the world. For dedicated fans, a baseball game is nothing less than an event. There are iconic elements that just scream “baseball” wherever you look: from the classic hotdogs and other refreshments to the unmistakable shape of the diamond itself.

Needless to say, baseball games always take place under the watchful eye of another mainstay of the sport: the umpire, the game’s equivalent of a referee. According to The Baseball Umpire, they must be consummate professionals, the personification of the game’s every rule, and always behave with the dignity expected of their lofty position.

With this in mind, then, it’s no surprise that it’s a very long road to umpiring in the Major League (around 7-8 years as a Minor League umpire after training, according to MiLB Umpire Academy). After all of that, these officials have a stringent set of rules to follow themselves — right down to the required color of their underwear.

Those unfamiliar with this rule might wonder why umpires’ underwear requires any regulations. Those in this proud and noble role wouldn’t exactly have much cause to allow it to be seen by players and fans, after all. Nevertheless, it’s a curious fact that Major League umpires must be sure to wear black underwear whenever officiating a match. Why?

Dignity is everything for an umpire

As Her Sports Corner tells us, there’s a logical explanation for this. Umpires, of course, wear a uniform of their own, and as a great deal of squatting is called for over the course of a game, their pants are well constructed to be up to the task. Nevertheless, it’s always possible that the material of their pants could let them down at an inopportune moment. Dark-colored underwear, then, would make any potential split less conspicuous.

Dark colors and great dignity are both long-held traditions in the Major Leagues. As per Sports Rec, early umpires would wear very formal uniforms including dark-colored ties and sports coats, and only in the 1970s and ’80s did they begin to wear cotton, short-sleeved shirts. The traditional dark-colored outfits led to the iconic nickname for an umpire, “blue.”

Further, Baseball Rules Academy highlights the fact that solemnity is still paramount for MLB umpires. They are to be treated with the utmost respect, and have the authority to remove from the game those who react to their decisions with angry theatrics, or continue to argue with them. Dignity in pants-splitting emergencies, then, is a given — hence, the black underwear.

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