April 07, 2003
The National Anthem

For you history buffs, the story of playing the Star Spangled Banner at baseball games.

The first indisputable record of the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" for a Major League game was for a unique World Series. The premature series in 1918 featured Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox winning their last Series against the even more hapless Cubs. A year earlier the World Series had been unaffected by the United States' entry into the World War. But following the completion of the 1917 season, players enlisted and were drafted into the armed services. At the height of the 1918 season, baseball was classified as a non - essential occupation. Consequently, the government cut the season short, requiring the end of regular season play by Labor Day and the completion of the World Series by mid - September.

The playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" can first be verified by a New York Times report of the 1918 World Series. In the inning-by-inning recap of the first game, the report of the bottom of the seventh - inning notes that as the Cubs came to bat the band delayed play by playing "The Star Spangled Banner.'" Players and fans stood in civilian salute, most holding their caps over their hearts, while Red Sox' third baseman Fred Thomas, a Great Lakes sailor, assumed "the military pose" (NY Times, 9/06/1918, p. 14). The pre - game ceremony on that afternoon had been minimal. While the managers and umpires were exchanging line - up cards at home plate and going over the ground rules, a huge horseshoe of roses was presented to Cubs manager Fred Mitchell, and a big bouquet of roses was handed to Cubs third baseman Charles Deal.

They stood up before the start of the bottom of the seventh, eh? I wonder if that's a possible explanation for the seventh inning stretch. Probably not, since it was played before the game at Fenway later in that World Series, but hey, you never know.

(Speaking of the seventh inning stretch, did you know that the lyrics we all sing to Take Me Out To The Ballgame are really just the chorus to that song? I didn't.)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 07, 2003 to Baseball | TrackBack

Ironically, despite the playing of the Star Spangled Banner at baseball games during World War I, it did not become the national anthem until March 3rd, 1931.

It turns out, by the way, that the seventh inning stretch is as old as professional baseball itself. More information is available at: http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/library/weekly

I only found out the truth regarding Take Me Out To the Ballgame when I was at the traveling exhibit of the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer at the American Museum of Natural History. The verses actually help explain the chorus. It could be worse. In Baltimore, they have used "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" during the seventh inning stretch since 1974.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 7, 2003 1:53 PM

I have that Miningco link in the post. I was actually going to cite the WH Taft story, but my usual habit of Googling first saved me the embarassment. :-)

At Astros games, they follow "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" with "Deep In The Heart of Texas". Corny, but definitely preferable to what the Orioles do.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 7, 2003 2:13 PM

Sorry about missing the link. It's my fault for not paying attention.

The seventh inning stretch story claimed by Manhattan College (Br. Jasper at the Polo Grounds telling his team to stretch) is used by the school to explain "What is a Jasper"?

At least "Deep In the Heart of Texas" is relevant to Houston. What in the world is a John Denver tune doing in Baltimore. It's the one thing I hate about going to Camden Yards. (I do recommend Boog's BBQ, however). :)

Posted by: William Hughes on April 7, 2003 2:20 PM

Hmm. I always associate "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" with Jim Nabors, not that he has anything to do with Baltimore, either.

Didn't know that's how Manhattan College got their nickname. Thanks!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 7, 2003 3:29 PM

What makes the song worse for me is that my mother is a John Denver fan who would play that &*&#^#! song at least three times a week. Personally, nothing beats singing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field on the day Barry Bonds hit his 50th home run during his record breaking season. Of course, it wasn't Harry Caray leading the crowd, but he's still there in spirit (not to mention Budweiser).

Posted by: William Hughes on April 7, 2003 5:57 PM