The New York Yankees Forgo Last Names on the Back of Their Jerseys — Why?

Allison DeGrushe - Author

Oct. 20 2022, Published 12:33 p.m. ET

Despite being one of the most accomplished franchises in the MLB, the New York Yankees organization continues to uphold several strict guidelines. The two that stick out the most to fans are the appearance policy — how players have to shave their facial hair — and the tradition of forgoing last names on the back of jerseys.

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We know the grooming policy came to fruition in 1976 when then-franchise owner George Steinbrenner believed regulating players' appearances would produce a solid regimen for everyone involved, but what about the uniform policy?

Let's find out why the Yankees aren't allowed to have their last names on the back of their jerseys.

yankee hat logo
Source: Getty Images
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Why do the Yankees not have names on the back of their jerseys?

For starters, it's important to note that the Yankees were the first team in the MLB to number their jerseys; the concept came to life in 1929 because it would make it easier to identify players on the field, according to Fox Sports.

However, when various teams began putting the players' last names on the back of jerseys, the Yankees declined to follow the trend and have since harbored the long-standing tradition — well, why is that?

Sadly, there's no definitive answer, but notes one opinion is that forgoing last names on the back of jerseys shows the Yankees "value the importance of teamwork and unity," and that perhaps "[t]he club believes that by putting the names on the shirts you are placing unnecessary attention on individuals rather than the team as a whole."

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Although this is the case for the actual players, most Yankees gear and merchandise for fans to purchase includes the players' last names on the back. The stores around and inside Yankee Stadium, as well as Fanatics and the MLB Shop, offer an overabundance of them. Yet, no official Yankees uniform has ever incorporated last names on the back.

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In 2017, the Yankees had names on the back of their jerseys for Players Weekend.

In August 2017, the MLB allowed all players to show off their personalities by allowing them to don nicknames on the back of their jerseys during the first-ever Players Weekend. As part of the announcement, the YES Network revealed that the Yankees would "be partaking in the festivities as well, as they host the Seattle Mariners during those three days in the Bronx."

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"This will be an exciting and unique opportunity for the players to literally wear their passions on their sleeves, and equipment, too, as they embrace this chance to let their true identities shine," said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, per YES Network.

While many were pleased with the decision, others displayed typical boomer mentality and scolded the Yankees for neglecting the time-honored tradition. One "fan" on Twitter said the Yankees organization "should be ashamed," while another claimed it was an "awful idea. If George were alive, he'd never let this happen."

It was definitely an unusual sight for Yankees fans, but it was worth it in the end because the custom jerseys were auctioned off for charity, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation.

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