On why people are dressing up for Sunday's Royals game, and why you might, too
The Kansas City Star
The idea is brilliant in its simplicity, its subtlety, and its symbolism. Go to a baseball game. Dress like it’s church. Honor a critical part of American and baseball history in the process. The power of social media has taken this from a wild idea to an actual thing, and there’s no telling for sure if this will catch on, but it has a chance.
Brett Parker and his friends came up with this “Dressed To The Nines” idea. They are baseball fans, and supporters of the Negro Leagues Museum. They wore old suits to the Jackie Robinson Day game last year, and thought it was a good way to honor the past.
“I think it’s great what these kids are doing,” says Bob Kendrick, museum president. “If we can do this, just one game out of the year, I think it would be really cool.”
You probably know where the tradition comes from. If you’ve ever taken tour of the museum, you’ve seen the pictures of Negro Leagues crowds, many of them in their Sunday best. Women in dresses and gloves, men in suits and hats.
This was a different era in our country, of course. Major league games had people dressed up, too. But fashion was a particularly important part of the Negro Leagues experience.
Buck O’Neil talked about this often. They took so much pride in their appearance. When a kid signed with the Negro Leagues, often from a job working a cotton field, his teammates took him straight to the tailor for two suits. The kid would sign for them, take the suits, and when he got his first check he’d go back and pay for the suits.
Fans were the same way. Games were often on Sunday afternoons, so fans were coming straight from church. No time to change clothes, and besides, why not go looking your best?
“There was nothing recreation about it, it was the social event of the week,” Kendrick says. “And in the African-American community, it was a way to dignify themselves.”
Which brings us to Sunday. The high is supposed to be 61, so you won’t mind the extra layers. This is a grassroots thing. The Royals aren’t officially involved, but have expressed support of the idea. If it catches on, maybe we can all help make it a more formal event next year^.
^ Two excellent ideas came in from readers: First, encourage women to wear red dresses as a way to honor Buck. If you haven’t heard the red dress story, you can read it here. The second idea is to bring a jazz group or three to play outside the gates as people are walking in. The connection between jazz and the Negro Leagues is deep and intertwined.