If you are a baseball enthusiast who has reached the level where you can hear nicknames said or yelled at the umpires, you might wonder what they mean.
The most known nickname by far for the umpires is ”Blue”. Where the nickname derives from is only one of the things you will learn in this article. You will also know whether it’s offensive to use that word, other nicknames for the umpires and other baseball people, and the gear umpires wear when on the job.
Before moving on, why are baseball umpires called blue? Baseball umpires have acquired the nickname blue because of the color of their uniforms. Baseball umpires usually wear blue shirts or jerseys; however, it isn’t a requirement nowadays, especially in the minor leagues.
That being said, umpires still wear mainly blue because it’s a tradition that dates back a long time. In the modern world, its formality isn’t the same, but blue has been the color of umpires, which is why most of them still wear it.
The first appearance of the blue color over the umpires was in the 1960s when the umpires were allowed to wear slightly blue dress shirts, and the American and National League umpires had blue coats.
Moving to the 1970s, National League included a short sleeve shirt that was lightly blue for the hot summer games. In addition, a large patch of the league’s logo and the number was added to the left sleeve of umpire’s uniforms, but more on that later.
Umpires have worn blue for over 60 years now, and I don’t see the tradition going away. Although, blue is now accompanied by black in many cases. Usually, umpires wear blue uniforms when the sun is high, which keeps them cooler, and chilly evening games are umpired with black uniforms.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why baseball umpires wear blue in the first place.
Why Are Baseball Umpires Wearing Blue?
Back in the day, the umpires wore uniforms that resembled suits. In exception, the National League umpires wore funny-looking chest protectors so the ball wouldn’t do damage to them if unfortunate enough to get hit. The chest protectors looked a bit like lifevests.
The umpires were allowed to wear blue from the 1960s and forward because it was chosen so. The exact reasons why the color blue was chosen isn’t known, but that’s the way it is, and the tradition has been just that ever since.
In the MLB, the uniforms have changed quite a bit, and the main color now is black. Even so, the nickname blue has lingered, and that’s why most people start to think why they are called blue as they aren’t wearing blue anymore.
Is Calling an Umpire ”Blue” Offensive?
Especially in the modern world, nicknames that derive from history can be offensive without the user knowing it. Is calling an umpire ”blue” offensive?
In general, calling an umpire blue isn’t offensive as they know where it comes from. However, it has been used as a term of abuse to be offensive to some umpires. When talking to an umpire, you should use the term blue as a nickname, not as a name in your tone.
It comes down to the tone and situation where you use the word. As humans, we can say more with our gestures, eyes, and tones than what we say with our words. Let’s take a few examples.
A coach asks the umpire in the dugout ”Hey Blue, where was that pitch?” or something similar; it would most certainly be okay to all umpires as the tone of voice and question is friendly and appropriate.
However, if a fan yells from the crowd ”Hey Blue, I thought only horses slept standing up!” or something else from a wide list of umpire heckles, it would be offensive and shouldn’t be said. This is because the context is insulting, and the tone is mocking, angry, or something between.
When Did Umpires Stop Wearing Blue?
If you follow the MLB, you have probably noticed that most umpires wear black instead of blue. Although, some umpires still wear blue. When did umpires stop wearing blue?
In short, baseball umpires stopped wearing blue in 2001 when the uniforms switched to black polo shirts. However, a light blue shirt can still be used in major league baseball that is still seen today. In lower levels of play, you can see both black and blue uniforms as the rule isn’t as strict.
When it comes to the umpire’s jackets, the color is now black with blue trim over the shoulders. Jackets are worn by umpires where it’s too chilly to perform just in a t-shirt. Which one do you like better, black or light blue?
Other Baseball Nicknames
Talking about nicknames and baseball, ”blue” certainly isn’t the only nickname used. Let’s take a closer look at another umpire nickname in addition to nicknames meant for the manager and players!
Umpire: Another nickname for an umpire is an ”ump”. This is a safer nickname as it isn’t used as an offense towards the umpires. Both blue and ump are short, so they will roll off the tongue better than an umpire. Did you know that MLB players that work a lot with the umpires often call them by name?
Manager: The head coach has two widely used nicknames ”skipper” and ”’skip”. These nicknames are used mostly by the players. In addition, the players often have a more personal nickname for the manager that only applies to that manager as the nickname has derived from an inside joke, a personal trait, or something similar.
Players: Nicknames are often given by the position. For example, a powerful swinger is called a ”slugger,” and a starting pitcher can be referred to as ”Ace” Although, most nicknames for the players come from the person itself, not the position.
There are many examples of great nicknames that the players have been given. The nicknames often come by earning them greatly with skill above other players. Below you can find a list of the 15 most amazing nicknames baseball players have earned or given.
- George Herman Ruth: Babe Ruth/The Great Bambino
- Hank Aaron: Hammerin’ Hank
- Lou Gehrig: Iron Horse
- Ozzie Smith: The Wizard
- Sandy Koufax: The Left Arm of God
- James Bell: Cool Papa Bell
- Noah Syndergaard: Thor
- Pablo Sandoval: Kung Fu Panda
- Randy Johnson: The Big Unit
- David Ortiz: Big Papi
- Pete Rose: Charlie Hustle
- Fred McGriff: Crime Dog
- Jimmy Wynn: Toy Cannon
- Ron Cey: The Penguin
- Mariano Rivera: Sandman
What Does a Baseball Umpire Wear?
In addition to the umpire uniform color, there is much more to it. Regardless of how one becomes an umpire, the budget for the gear, or the league, the gear is similar. Let’s take a look at what does the baseball uniform includes.
Starting from head to toes, the plate and base umpires must wear a hat. The most common hat used is a clean umpire hat with a 2-inch brim. You can see this kind of hat worn by most umpires. Oh, and the umpires can’t wear a hat backward.
2. Shirt / Jersey
The umpire’s jersey is often blue or black, and the league’s umpire-in-chief usually determines the exact color and choice options. Most jerseys have a stripe of a different color. Jerseys include a collar, league logo, and a left breast pocket.
All jerseys have the league’s official umpire patch. The patch’s location is usually four inches below the shoulder seam on the left arm.
For those chilly evenings, umpires can use blazers, usually black or blue. The left breast pocket and the patch is also found in the jacket. However, blazers usually have ball pockets as they aren’t tucked inside the jersey and would come in the way of the separate ball pockets.
5. Pants & Belt
In most leagues, grey slacks are part of the umpire’s uniform and can come with pleats but not necessarily. One can use pants with cuffs if chosen so. The requirements on the pants are that they are long enough to fully cover the ankle for base umpires and the back of the shoes for plate umpires.
On the other hand, the belt is black and shiny with nothing unusual about it.
6. Shoes & Socks
Base umpires wear low-top sneakers or turf shoes with rubber soles that must be black or black & white. The plate umpires are encouraged to wear plate shoes meant for jobs that have steel toes and rubber cleats. The color requirement is the same, but they can choose between low or high top plate shoes.
Socks must be black and should be comfortable and breathable as the games are quite long.
That covers the umpire’s uniform, but there is still the equipment used by the umpires. Let’s take a closer look at that.
- Protective gear: There are many kinds of protective gear worn by umpires. The home plate umpire wears shin and knee protectors under the pants. There will be protective equipment under the shirt as well for torso protection. An athletic cup is recommended for men and pelvic protectors for women to protect the ground area. Finally, the home plate umpire will wear a mask or helmet protecting the face, chin, neck, and throat.
- Ball bags: The home plate umpire is always seen with ball bags dangling on the waist. The ball bags are made from black cloth and can securely hold three baseballs or two softballs.
- Lineup book: Both teams need to provide a lineup before the game for the umpires. They can’t be changed afterward, and it’s for the umpires to decide whether the coaches and players can switch things up. The lineups are held in a small book by the plate umpire.
- Plate brush: Used to clean the plate between innings or every time it’s required. The plate brush is a small and bristles item held in the home plate umpire’s back pocket that effectively dusts off the dirt.
Among some pens and so on, these items are used by the umpires in addition to the uniform. What do you think, would it be fascinating to be an umpire?
My Favorite Baseball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Below you can find my favorite baseball bat, baseballs, and a glove that I think will take your game to the next level!
- Bat: My favorite baseball bat is the Easton Project 3 Fuze. This bat has a composite end cap, reduced post-impact vibrations, balanced swing weight for the fastest swing speed, and a carbon core that makes this bat perform very well! As I’m not a professional baseball player, I like to use alloy bats as you can swing faster and hit further.
- Baseballs: Rawlings Competition Grade Practice Balls are my choice for something to hit. I love these balls because they fit all levels of play, so regardless of who you are playing with, you can use them. They come in a 6 or 12 balls box, and you can choose between raised or flat seams! I prefer flat seams as the balls tend to fly further!
- Glove: When it comes to the glove, my choice is the Rawlings Sandlot Glove. This glove is available for both lefties and righties. The same glove is also available for infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers, and 1B mitt. This glove has a nice vintage look, and it’s made from oiled leather. It has palm pads that protect your hand from impact, and it is pre-broken-in, so you are good to go as soon as you have it! A glove I’m proud to recommend.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.