Chambliss' walk-off home run was just one of several iconic moments that have all occurred in Yankee pinstripes. Photo courtesy Ray Stubblebine/Associated Press

When I was 13, I played for a Church Youth Organization baseball team known as the Corpus Christi Cougars. I didn’t attend their Catholic School, but regular enrollment in their Sunday “Church School” made me eligible for the squad.

It was my first real dose of organized baseball and, accordingly, I spent much of the first few practices relegated to right field where our league didn’t have too many lefty pull hitters threatening to carom balls off the wall (actually, our field didn’t HAVE an outfield wall).

For those first few weeks we didn’t have uniforms; we simply practiced in baseball pants or shorts or whatever we had in our closet. But the last practice before our first game our coaches opened two large cardboard boxes and unveiled them.

In 1912, the Yankees and Red Sox were anything but rivals. By the time Aaron Boone smacked one over the fence, though, that all changed. Photo courtesy Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“Yes,” my friend shouted, “Pinstripes!”

Never knowing him to be particularly “fashion-forward”, I was a little confused by his excitement. All he could say in his defense was that they were classic. Somehow the thought of wearing navy blue pinstripes on a white background excited a teenager from Falls Church, Virginia. That is how embedded the iconic Yankee uniforms are in our society today.

And lost somewhere in all the hype over the centennial anniversary of the Titanic (spoiler alert: they don’t make it) is the fact that these famous pinstripes are 100 years old TODAY.

In fact, the pinstripes themselves are actually older than the mascot name “Yankees”. In 1912, the New York baseball team that had migrated from Baltimore called themselves the Highlanders. These Highlanders were often nicknamed by most as the “Yankees”, but the franchise wouldn’t officially adopt the team name until the following season.

Between 1903 (when they moved from Baltimore) and 1912, the Highlanders were a team that lacked a visual identity. The ballclub made at least one noticeable alteration to their uniforms every season like a lost adolescent struggling to find an identity. On April 11 of that year, a 23 year-old pitcher by the name of Roy Caldwell walked out of the dugout to throw the first pitch of the game. He was wearing pinstripes for the first time in Yankees history.

To today’s baseball fan, much of that game would seem bizarre and meaningless. Roy Caldwell was an otherwise forgettable major league pitcher. If you try searching for him today, you won’t even find a Wikipedia page. He was pitching that day against a nearby team named the Boston Red Sox, of whom the Highlanders had no particular bad blood with. For them, it was just another baseball game.

But that baseball game was the spawning point in a century of iconic moments. The Babe’s called shot. Lou Gehrig’s speech. The 1920’s ‘Murderer’s Row’. DiMaggio’s hit streak. Larsen’s perfect game. Reggie’s October heroics. And, even last year, Derek Jeter’s 3,000 hits. All those moments have one thing in common: the Yankees were in pinstripes.

You see, whether you love them or hate them, there’s no refuting the cultural significance of the New York Yankees. Over the course of the last ten decades, the Bronx Bombers might be the one professional sports team that most accurately reflects the concept of a sports dynasty. Between 1921 and 1964, the Yankees won the World Series 20 times and their division 29 times. They went through some down seasons, but then proceeded to win four more World Series between 1996 and 2000 and then once more in 2009. For a country that naturally likes to see themselves as a nation of “winners”, the Yankees franchise is perhaps the perfect business model.

Ironically, that wasn’t always the case. In that first game sporting pinstripes, the Highlanders lost to the Red Sox 5-3. Over the course of that season, they would accrue over 100 more losses. But that year, that first year in pinstripes (even though they were black and not navy blue), was the last year the New York Highlanders/Yankees ever lost over 100 games in a season. THAT is the significance of the Bronx pinstripes.

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and other click here.
When Bryan isn’t talkin’ baseball, he’s talkin’ Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!