Why Pittsburgh's Teams All Sport The Same Black And Gold Color Scheme

What do the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common (aside from the city they represent)? It's easy to tell once you spot each team's respective uniform — Bucs Dugout states that they are all black and gold. According to MLB, Pittsburgh is the only city in the country whose sports teams adhere to the same color scheme (the differing shades of gold notwithstanding). In 1925, the Pittsburgh Pirates (a now-defunct hockey team) were the first to use these now-iconic colors (per The City of Pittsburgh). Despite only existing until 1930 (via PensBurgh), the MLB notes that they set a precedent for the rest of Pittsburgh's professional sports teams.

These colors are, of course, no coincidence. The City of Pittsburgh's flag and seal are also black and gold. According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, black and gold became the city's official colors in 1899. However, the seal was created all the way back in 1815 by a man referred to as "Mr. Jones," who designed the seal based on William Pitt's family crest.

Pitt, who was English, was born in 1708 and was a supporter of the rights of American colonists. The Maryland State House adds that he served as the British Secretary of State and was known as the Earl of Chatham. In return for his support of the American colonies, the colonists commended him and built a statue for him in Baltimore in his honor (via Positively Pittsburgh). 

The symbolism of the Pitt family crest

According to The Maryland State House, Pitt died in 1778. WESA notes that John Forbes, a general in the British Army, decided to name what would eventually be the city of Pittsburgh after him in 1761. Many years later, the aforementioned "Mr. Jones" took Pitt's family crest, which features a black shield, gold coins, and a blue and white checkerboard pattern, to create the Pittsburgh city seal (per the Pittsburgh City Paper). Louise Sturgess, from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, told WESA that the symbols and colors from the crest are significant.

She said, "The black shield is the idea of constancy or grief, think about it in terms of endurance, perseverance. He has three gold coins, those are called Bezants, and it comes from the idea of a gold coin from Byzantium which became Constantinople and is now Istanbul. And they were symbols of trust and honesty." As for blue and white, they represent peace.

However, the Pittsburgh City Paper notes that Jones designed the city seal to be a little different from the Pitt Family Crest. Instead of gold coins, eagles, which represent power, were added to the design. Despite this small change, the colors from the Pitt family crest and later the city seal have remained timeless. Sturgess explained, "They've been used by all of our sports teams and so they are colors that mean Pittsburgh, definitely a source of pride."

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates started with different colors

Bucs Dugout reports that at different points in time, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have all had different colors besides black and gold. MLB explains that the Steelers began wearing black and gold in 1933. However, in 1943, the team merged with the Philadelphia Eagles and wore their colors, green and white. The Pittsburgh Pirates (not to be confused with the former hockey team) started out wearing red, white, and blue. In 1947 they announced, "The Pirates' colors now will be gold and black, colors of the city of Pittsburgh itself, instead of red and blue, although the gold will not show on the uniforms."

Per MLB, the Pirates have not changed their colors since. As for the Penguins, Bucs Dugout writes that their uniforms were blue and white for years. Then in 1980, the team decided to adopt their now signature black and gold colors (via the NHL). At the time, Greg Malone, a Penguins Player stated, "They've expressed an interest in changing to black and gold. I think everybody in Pittsburgh identifies with those colors, so why shouldn't the Penguins identify with them, too? Meanwhile, Penguins vice president Paul Martha explained, "Black and gold has become Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are Pittsburgh."