Major League Baseball managers are the only coaches in professional sports who suit up in uniform like players do. This never bothered me until I saw an Instagram of Braves manager Brian Snitker with some of his all-stars.
It was this Instagram (second photo) that gave me pause:
There’s nothing out of the ordinary with Snit here. For whatever reason, this wave of realization just happened to come over me. “Why on Earth is the coach dressed up like the players?”
It’s not like Snit is going to replace Brian McCann behind the plate to defend the integrity of the game, or play outfield for an evening so Ronald Acuña Jr. can catch a breather while the Braves roll over the Marlins yet again. He certainly isn’t throwing gas on the mound.
Managers dressing like they’re ready to call their own number at any given moment is the weirdest thing in sports that we as a society have decided is totally normal.
The historical answer as to why was answered by CNN’s Bob Greene in 2011, thanks to the official historian of Major League Baseball John Thorn:
He said that in the earliest years of the game in the 19th Century, “The person who was called the manager of a team was the business manager — he was the person who made sure that the receipts were paid and that the train schedules were met. He didn’t make any decisions about what went on during a game.
”The person who did that was called the captain. He did what a manager does today, but he also played. So at first, the person we would today call a manager wore a uniform because he was a participant in the game.”
This trend continued through the 20th Century, despite others like Connie Mack, who didn’t dress like players. However, they wore entire suits, which was almost as weird (though seems much more appropriate for it being many, many years ago).
Let’s take the same idea of wearing a full game uniform and apply it to the NFL. How weird would it be to see guys like Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, Bruce Arians, or other NFL head coaches in full pads and a helmet on the sideline? The NBA is just as funny to think about, if not worse. Do you want to see Gregg Popovich, John Beilein, Rick Carlisle or any other NBA head coach in game shorts and a jersey?