Skip to main content

Why The White

March 2024
1min read

Only after seeing “The Old Ball Game,” my portfolio of early baseball photographs (June/July), in print did I realize that some confusion might surround the lovely tinted photo of the splendif erously garbed Cincinnati Reds of 1882. Readers might wonder why two players in the middle row—third baseman Hick Carpenter, on the left, and left fielder Joe Sommer, on the right—are both portrayed in white jerseys; this would seem to contradict my statement in the caption that jerseys were designated by position.

The colors are accurate: on the day the photograph was taken, Sommer was attired in the white jersey designated by management for his position, but Carpenter did not show up for the photo session in the gray-and-white striped shirt he was obliged to wear on the ball field. It was a uniform that he detested and that the press, the fans, and the opposing players found comical. A Cincinnati paper in the spring of ’82 wrote of the “clown” shirts of Carpenter and second baseman Bid McPhee (in yellow and black at the right of the back row): “When Carpenter and McPhee shed their striped shirts they will have the appearance of long-termers just pardoned out of the penetentiary.”

It seems Carpenter did not wish posterity to regard him as a jailbird.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate