Why do Baseball Players Wear Eye Black?

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HomeBlogsChris Sloan's blogWhy do Baseball Players Wear Eye Black?
Why do Baseball Players Wear Eye Black?
Chris Sloan

Baseball players have been wearing eye black for decades. The black smudges that you see under their eyes might look like war paint, but they actually serve a practical purpose. In this blog post, we'll explore why baseball players wear eye black, how it helps them on the field, and the history behind this iconic part of the baseball uniform. Eye black is a simple and inexpensive piece of equipment that has become a staple of the baseball uniform. But where did it come from, and why is it so important to players? Let's dive in and find out.

The Science Behind Eye Black

Eye black is a tool that many baseball players use to reduce glare and improve their vision during games. The black smudges under their eyes serve a purpose beyond just aesthetics. The science behind eye black reveals that it is an effective way to improve a player's visual acuity on the field. Baseball players need to be able to see the ball clearly to hit it or catch it, and glare can hinder their ability to do so. Eye black works by absorbing excessive light and reducing glare from the sun or stadium lights, improving contrast sensitivity and peripheral vision in bright or sunny environments. The light frequencies that affect baseball players are the shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue and violet, which can scatter more easily in the atmosphere and cause glare. By reducing glare and improving contrast, eye black can help players perform at their best.

Baseball Player with Eye Black

The Origins of Eye Black in Baseball

Eye black is a classic part of the baseball uniform, but where did it all begin? As the story goes, Babe Ruth was the first baseball player to wear eye black. According to some accounts, Ruth began using it to reduce the glare from stadium lights, while others suggest that he started wearing it as a form of "war paint" to intimidate his opponents.

Today, many athletes wear eye black, not just baseball players. Football players, in particular, are well known for their use of eye black, with many players using black stickers or grease in the form of strips or other shapes. But the origins of eye black in baseball can be traced back to Ruth, who used a variety of substances to create the effect. In addition to shoe polish and burnt cork, Ruth also used charcoal powder to darken the area under his eyes.

The use of eye black has evolved over time, and there are now many different types of eye black available, including stickers and petroleum jelly. However, the basic idea remains the same: to reduce glare and improve vision on the field.

See Also: Top 5 Best Eye Black for Baseball

How Eye Black is Used Today

In modern baseball, applying eye black has become a customary pregame ritual for many players. The traditional way of applying eye black is by using black grease or black lines under each eye, but there are now several different forms of eye black that players can use. Eye black stickers, for instance, have become a popular alternative to traditional grease. Other players prefer to apply eye black in the form of black lines, which they create using black paint or marker. Many players also opt to use a matte finish or anti-glare stickers that are more effective in reducing glare. However, some leagues and schools have begun to ban eye black, citing safety concerns or simply not allowing any form of "war paint" on the field.

Bryce Harper with Eye Black

MissChatter on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benefits of Eye Black in Baseball

Eye black is more than just a fashion statement for baseball players, it has been proven to provide several benefits on the field. Let's explore some of the benefits of eye black in baseball.

Reducing Glare and Improving Vision

One of the main benefits of eye black is its ability to reduce glare and improve vision. As we discussed earlier, excessive light and sun glare can make it difficult for players to see the ball clearly, which can affect their performance on the field. Eye black helps reduce the glare caused by bright lights and the sun, allowing players to see the ball more clearly and improve their performance.

Several Reasons Why Players Wear Eye Black

There are several reasons why players wear eye black, aside from its ability to reduce glare and improve vision. Some players wear eye black as a psychological boost, as it can make them feel more aggressive and confident on the field. Eye black is also a way for players to show their team spirit, and it can help them stand out from the rest of the team.

The Eye Black Cool Factor

Wearing eye black can also be a cool factor for players. Eye black gives players a tough and intimidating look, almost like war paint, which can make them feel more powerful on the field. It is also a way for players to express themselves and show off their personal style.

Overall, eye black has several benefits for baseball players, both practical and psychological. Its ability to reduce glare and improve vision can help players perform better on the field, while also giving them a psychological boost and cool factor.

Bryce Harper, Hagerstown 2011


In conclusion, eye black has a long and interesting history in baseball. From its origins with Babe Ruth and other early players, to its widespread use among athletes today, eye black has remained a staple of baseball culture. The science behind eye black has also been well-documented, with studies showing its effectiveness in reducing glare and improving vision.

But eye black is more than just a practical tool for baseball players. It has become a part of the game's culture and aesthetic. Players wear it to look cool, to intimidate their opponents, and to feel more confident on the field. In this sense, eye black has taken on a psychological significance for players, becoming a symbol of their passion and dedication to the sport.

Despite the benefits and cultural significance of eye black, some leagues and schools have banned its use. While these rules may be well-intentioned, they overlook the important role that eye black plays in the game of baseball. It is a tool that has been used by players for generations, and its continued use should be respected and celebrated.

In the end, eye black is more than just a black smudge on a player's face. It is a symbol of the dedication and passion that baseball players bring to the game. And as long as baseball is played, eye black will remain a part of its culture and history.

Is eye black illegal in the MLB?

No, eye black is not illegal in Major League Baseball (MLB). Players often wear it to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights. However, it must be worn in a professional manner, meaning it shouldn’t have any offensive or distracting messages or designs.

Do baseball players wear eye black at night?

Yes, some baseball players do wear eye black at night. The primary purpose of eye black is to reduce glare, and stadium lights can create glare just like the sun, so wearing eye black can still be beneficial during night games.

What is the history of eye black in sports?

The use of eye black in sports dates back to the 1940s. It is traditionally associated with baseball, but it is used in many other sports as well. The original eye black was made from a greasy substance mixed with black pigment, but today, players often use strips that are easier to apply and remove.

Why do NFL players wear eye black?

NFL players, like baseball players, wear eye black to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights, which can help improve focus on the ball. It is especially useful for players in positions that require a high level of hand-eye coordination, such as receivers and cornerbacks.

Is Eyeblack bad for skin?

Generally, commercially available eye black products are safe for skin use. They are specifically designed for use on the skin and are usually dermatologically tested. However, people with sensitive skin or allergies should be cautious and test the product on a small area first to ensure there is no adverse reaction.

Does Eyeblack wash off?

Yes, eye black is designed to be easily removed. Traditional grease eye black can be wiped off with a cloth and then washed away with soap and water. Adhesive eye black strips can be peeled off. It’s important to gently remove the product to avoid irritating the skin. See our post on the best ways to remove eye black.

What is the black paint under athletes' eyes called?

The black paint applied under athletes' eyes is called "eye black." It is used by players to reduce the glare from sunlight or artificial lights, thus potentially improving visual acuity and performance during the game.

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About Chris Sloan

Chris Sloan is a former baseball league commissioner and travel baseball coach who has made significant contributions to the sport. In 2018, he founded selectbaseballteams.com, a website that helps parents find youth and travel baseball teams in their local areas. Since its launch, the website has experienced impressive growth, offering a wealth of resources including teams, news, tournaments, and organizations. Chris's unwavering passion for baseball and his innovative approach to connecting parents with quality baseball programs have earned him a respected reputation in the baseball community, solidifying his legacy as a leading figure in the world of youth and travel baseball.

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