Uniform numbers were first used in Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1929, when the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees both introduced numbers on the backs of their uniforms. The numbers were originally used to help fans identify players more easily, especially in larger stadiums.
The Indians were the first team to use uniform numbers on April 16, 1929, when they played against the Yankees in New York. The numbers were printed on the backs of the Indians’ jerseys and were assigned based on each player’s position in the batting order. The Yankees followed suit a few weeks later, on May 13, 1929, in a game against the Chicago White Sox.
The use of uniform numbers quickly caught on, and by the 1930s, most MLB teams had adopted the practice. However, some players initially resisted the use of numbers, believing that they detracted from the traditional look of the uniform. Others saw the numbers as a way to assert their individuality and express their personalities.
Today, uniform numbers are an integral part of MLB, and they are closely associated with the players who wear them. Certain numbers, such as Babe Ruth‘s number 3 for the Yankees or Jackie Robinson‘s number 42 for all of MLB, have become iconic and are retired by their teams or the league as a mark of respect for the players who wore them.