What are Pennants?

Malcolm Tatum

If you have ever spent any time around a baseball field, chances are you have seen at least one pennant in your life. A tapering flag that is shaped in the form of an elongated triangle, pennants are very common sights when it comes to major and minor league baseball championships. Typically, all baseball teams have their own individual sports pennants, featuring the team emblem or logo and perhaps even a depiction of the team mascot. Enthusiastic fans may wave these tapering flags during a championship series as they cheer for their favorite team.

Baseball teams play for a 'pennant' at all levels.
Baseball teams play for a 'pennant' at all levels.

Pennants are especially prominent during the playoffs at the end of the major and minor baseball seasons. In addition to the team pennants, there is usually a special league pennant that will be flown during this critical and exciting time. At the end of the series, the league pennant and the team pennant may be flown together for a time at the home stadium of the winning team. In addition, many teams will issue a limited run championship pennant, listing the team name, the league and the year that the team won the playoffs.

During Major League Baseball postseason play, the team that emerges as the champion from each league is a pennant winner.
During Major League Baseball postseason play, the team that emerges as the champion from each league is a pennant winner.

The sport pennant is not the only tapered and elongated flag used in the world today. In fact, there are several other uses for the pennant. As an example, many of the naval forces around the world will have a special pennant that is used when holding funerals or memorial services for deceased members of the military. The memorial pennant is usually flown just above the national flag during the service. In some countries, it is traditional to end the service by lowering both flags, folding them, and presenting the two flags to the next of kin.

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Great Britain’s Royal Navy has a very practical use for the pennant. Each ship that is in the service of the Navy is assigned a pennant number, and is often identified by that number as well as the name of the vessel. This tradition goes back several centuries. There is some speculation that the pennants with numbers were first used in order to make it much easier to distinguish friend from foe, although there is not any definitive documentation for this theory.

The pennant also is used in traffic signs in the United States. Specifically, the pennant shaped sign to indicate that passing is not allowed is still used extensively when there is roadwork on two lane highways, as well as on interstate systems. Perhaps as a means of making this particular sign stand out more, there are not any other traffic signs that are in the shape of a pennant.

Along with many flags, the pennant has a long history as part of the culture of many nations. From sports to royalty to safety, the pennant carries important meanings for a number of people.

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