Why Do Baseball Players Wear Eye Black? Here’s the Reasons

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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why do baseball players wear eye black

One glaring look that you can see them have is painting horizontal black lines under their eyes.

These strips of black paint are under debate as eye black is common not only in baseball but all other sports that are played under bright sunlight or stadium lights. Why do baseball players wear eye black?

Eye black can reduce glare as the paint can absorb most frequencies of light. The player can have better peripheral vision and focus. Vision is important in sports!


What is Eye Black in Baseball?


1. Definition

First things first, eye black comes in the form of strips or grease.

The black line under eye of the players is more than the aesthetic appeal of it. Eye black is theorized to hold visual benefits when playing games!

Baseball players put black under their eyes with a unique paint. However, the same paint is not specific to baseball. Sports like football, softball, and lacrosse also have players using them.

Also, the use of eye black paint is infused with the creativity of the player. All sorts of designs are now seen, apart from the usual horizontal bar under the eyes. Patterns and cross eye blacks are unique twists!

2. Composition


Sports eye black has come a long way. Long before, Babe Ruth was the first to use eye black grease. Different athletes from various sports also copied Ruth and tried out the black paint themselves.

During Ruth’s era of eye black, the concoction used is a mix of burnt cork ashes and shoe polish. It was very easy to copy this formula as the eye black’s ingredients are easy-to-acquire items.

Eventually, lacrosse eye black became even more popular. Its formulation changed to become more long-lasting as it is expected that sweat will flush out the paint as the game goes on.

If you look at what players use, it will contain beeswax, paraffin, and carbon soot. Painting this item on is usually messy. Furthermore, removing it after the game often leaves smudges and stains on the player’s face.

The inconvenience of painting on an eye black stick led to the use of stickers. These are easier to apply as it is essentially a piece of fabric with adhesive strips. The sticker form of eye black is antiglare strips that have a distinct matte finish.

Regardless of the composition and form, eye black’s distinct black color and texture of the product remained even though its formulation is completely different in the modern sports era.

3. Purposes


Athletes wear eye black because of the supposed benefits of the product for their vision. So, what does eye black do?

The primary purpose of eye black is to absorb light and glare. Most games are played in large stadiums under harsh sunlight. Most of the time, the glare of the light source, which can also be stadium lights, impede the perfect vision of the player.

Let us dive a bit into the scientific aspect of light. Black and white are shades that have different characteristics from the usual colors that we see.

White is the color that we see when all color wavelengths reflect on a surface. But black is the opposite concept. This is the color we see when no light is reflected.

As athletes play under intense light right above them, the eye black will absorb the light rather than reflect it. The diminished amount of light bouncing from the eye black can reduce the glare that impedes their perception of depth.

In short, eye black will help players get better depth perception and focus on catching balls, and pitching, and boosts their aim.

4. The effect of the black eye that athletes wear


In theory, eye black does seem like a promising adjunct for athletes. However, there is a massive contradiction here as many experts do not find any significant differences.

Does eye black work? Mythbusters have put this to the test in one of their experiments. The show concluded that eye black will not eliminate the glare, which it is essentially advertised for.

However, it can help athletes in a different way. Players can see better the difference between something light and dark. So under harshly lit environments like a stadium, players can see moving objects and where it is headed.

The success of eye black may not be due to the intense scientific process of absorbing light. The psychological impact can also boost one’s focus when in the game!

5. The Verdict

Aside from Mythbuster’s initiative, other institutions have done the calculations. Many are still skeptical about the effectiveness of eye black as it is still not scientifically proven.

But there is more to eye black than the scientific aspect of it. Its long history and use showed that it is part of the sports tradition. Players keep doing it also for the psychological impact, better focus, and as part of a tradition.

Frequently Asked Questions


When did baseball players start wearing dark glasses?

Eye black aims to reduce glare. So, there is the option of wearing dark glasses to effectively reduce glare during the game. Hines in 1882 made exactly this move. He was the first to play baseball with sunglasses on. Eventually, this inspired sunglass trends in baseball.

Is there a rule that bans black eyes?

Eye black is under controversy when players started to write messages on their grease or stickers. The NCAA was alerted of possibly harmful and provocative messages as what was seen on Terrell Pryor and Zac Robinson.

Because of the incident, writing messages on black eyes are now banned to prevent insulting messages.


Eye black has come a long way. From a simple concoction, you now see athletes choosing from paints, grease, and stickers.

Why do baseball players wear eye black? The black lines under the eyes of players help reduce glare, boost focus, and give them a psychological boost.

Many studies have put eye black to the test. Experts tried to ascertain the effectiveness of these black soot painted onto faces and yielded no significant differences in terms of glare reduction.

Still, the use of eye black is neither banned nor discouraged. It all boils down to one’s ideals and preferences!

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