While at the National, I was asked about the change or evolution in the size of uniforms worn by major league players. This was an interesting question because you actually have to consider changes in styles, materials, design/cut, and player preference with respect to fit. The obvious thing that has to be factored in as well is just how much bigger people are today than they were 100 years ago. This got me to thinking about doing a bit of a data scrub to see what I could see. The idea of coming up with a major league average for even one year was just not something I have the time for. Instead I opted to pick one club and look at them in 30 year increments and then look at the last decade. You may be thinking why not look at 20 year segments since this is what most folks would consider a generation? Please don’t think less of me for this honest answer, but I just did not want to put in the extra time when I was only looking for a general trend. This is not to say that I may not go back and add years in the future; actually I probably will and the focus will be on the period of 1971-2001. I will also likely look to do 2-3 more teams besides the Reds just to see what the data suggests.

I also thought it would be interesting to look at these average ball players against the size of the average American male from the same time frame. I found that data in “A History of the Standard of Living in the United States” by Richard H. Steckel (Ohio State University, 2010). This data only went up through 1970 so that is all I am providing at this time below.

1911 Cincinnati Reds (Source: Baseball Almanac.com)

Average Height: 69.5″

Average Height American Male 1910: 67.8″

Average Weight: 173.5lbs

Largest Player: 6′,5″; 228lbs (Larry McLean)

Smallest Player: 5′,6 1/2″; 145lbs (Danny Mahoney)

% 6 feet and above: 34%

% 200lbs and above: 6%

1941 Cincinnati Reds (Source: Spring Training Yearbook)

Average Height: 72.1″

Average Height American Male 1940: 69.6″

Average Weight: 181.2lbs

Largest Player: 6′, 3 1/2″; 225lbs (Paul Derringer)

Smallest Player: 5′, 9″; 159lbs (Floyd Young)

% 6 feet and above: 60%

% 200lbs and above: 13%

1971 Cincinnati Reds (Source: Street & Smith Yearbook)

Average Height: 72.8″

Average Height American Male 1970: 69.8″

Average Weight: 185.3lbs

Largest Player: 6′,3″; 210lbs (Wayne Simpson)

Smallest Player: 5′,8″; 155lbs (Angel Bravo)

% 6 feet and above: 81%

% 200lbs and above: 19%

2001 Cincinnati Reds (Source: Street & Smith Yearbook)

Average Height: 73.2″

Average Weight: 200.9lbs

Largest Player: 6′,5″; 240lbs (Adam Dunn)

Smallest Player: 5′,6″; 175 (Donnie Sadler)

% 6 feet and above: 77%

% 200lbs and above: 49%

2011 Cincinnati Reds (Source: Reds MLB Roster)

Average Height: 73.9″

Average Weight: 211.4lbs

Largest Player: 6′,8″; 230lbs (Logan Ondrusek)

Smallest Player: 6′, 175lbs (Jose Arredondo

% 6 feet and above: 92%

% 200lbs and above: 80%

So what is it we think we know about the Cincinnati Reds after all of this? The average player appears to be about 4 1/2″ taller and just under 40 pounds heavier than he was 100 years ago. If you work off of the premise that an average uniform in 1911 was a size 38 and that adding an inch in height and 10 pounds of weight equates to size change, then this would put us in the size 46 range. Factor in changes in style and the preference for loose fitting garments and you easily enter the size 48+ range for the average player today. Remember these are all generalizations since as I mentioned before, you have to account for changes in styles, materials, design/cut, and player preference with respect to fit.

So for the collector who posed this question to me last week, there you have it or at least an answer that is grounded in some empirical data (even though it’s a very small sample). For all reading this, I continue to encourage you to ask questions and consider investing the time to answer them yourself and share what it is you learn. If you do I think you will find that you will truly enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.


For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com