Why shouldn't baseball players wear shorts in sunny Southern California? Still, a collective gasp spread through Gilmore Field on April 1, 1950, when the Hollywood Stars trotted out in short flannel pants, their bony knees bared before 3,869 fans.
It may have been April Fools' Day, but this was no joke. Stars manager Fred Haney considered the new uniforms, which also featured lightweight rayon pullovers in place of the traditional button-down flannel jerseys, a serious innovation that was sure to improve player comfort and performance. "It stands to reason that players should be faster wearing them, and that half step going down to first alone wins or loses many a game," Haney told the Los Angeles Times after their debut. "These outfits weigh only a third as much as the old monkey suits and when both are soaked in perspiration the difference is greater yet."
We may never know what difference the lightweight outfits made, but the barelegged Stars defeated the Portland Beavers, 5-3, that afternoon. And they continued to march onto the field in their new uniforms, donning them for day games and even warm evening matchups. Some players voiced concerns about abrasions from infield dirt ("strawberries" or "raspberries," as they are known in the dugout), but Haney assured them that there was no added risk provided they slid properly. There were also unanswered questions whether Pacific Coast League rules permitted such a radical redesign of the standard uniform, but the organization's president -- coincidentally named Pants Rowland -- quickly put them to rest with his official blessing.
As the Stars visited other cities, fans eager to gawk at the unorthodox uniforms filled stadiums to capacity. "I predict these new duds will become standard equipment in baseball everywhere in a year or so," Haney proclaimed. Yet despite his early optimism, his sartorial revolution fizzled after only four seasons. Other teams -- most notably the 1976 Chicago White Sox -- would later experiment with shorts, but after 1953 the Stars never bared their legs again.
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