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Day 40 “7th Inning Stretch”

Nico's question inspired this blog post!
Nico’s question inspired this blog post!

Yesterday I went to a Spring Training game between the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants.  A friend from Milwaukee, Jared Olson, was in town with his family.  He purchased a ticket for me and his family welcomed me into their “inner baseball circle” for the game, I enjoyed talking to his family and friends. They are all about the Brewers and baseball. During the 7th inning when everyone got up, stretched and sang “Take me out to the ball game”, Jared’s step-son, Nico asked what everyone was doing and why…  That is a great question, one that I never have asked! Jared turned to me and said, ” I need to tell him about President Taft”, I played along like I knew what he was talking about!

I had, absolutely, never have, even remotely, questioned the 7th inning stretch. I felt like a total baseball failure!  For the first time on this trip, I questioned my baseball “knowledge”, “experience”, whatever you want to call it!  I have read lots of baseball related stuff. I can tell you starting line ups from the 1970’s, hold my own in discussing baseball strategy, pick out talented baseball kids, but I cannot tell you how the 7th inning stretch originated or why we do it! I was humbled by a  10 year old’s simple question! Well, what I do have is a platform to look into this kind of thing and what I have found out is a lot of people go along with the “President Taft” theory! The origin of the seventh-inning stretch is much disputed, and it is difficult to certify any purported history.  I took the following from Wikipedia:

“One claimant is Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., the man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan College in the late 19th century. Being the Prefect of Discipline as well as the coach of the team, it fell to Brother Jasper to supervise the student fans at every home game. On one particularly hot and muggy day in 1882, during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans, the Prefect noticed his charges becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind. It worked so well he began calling for a seventh-inning rest period at every game. The Manhattan College custom spread to the major leagues after the New Your Giants were charmed by it at an exhibition game.

However, a letter written by Harry Wright of the Cincinnati Red Socking’s dated 1869 – 13 years earlier than Brother Jasper’s inspired time-out — documented something very similar to a seventh-inning stretch. In the letter, he makes the following observation about the fans’ ballpark behavior: “The spectators all arise between halves of the seventh inning, extend their legs and arms and sometimes walk about. In so doing they enjoy the relief afforded by relaxation from a long posture upon hard benches.” Another tale holds that the stretch was invented by a manager stalling for time to warm up a relief pitcher.

A popular story for the origins of the stretch is that President William Howard Taft at a Washington Senators game in 1910 was sore from prolonged sitting and stood up to stretch. Upon seeing the chief executive stand, the rest of the spectators in attendance felt obligated to join the president in his gestures. This story is set at a far later date than the others, however.

As to the name of the practice, there appears to be no record of the phrase “seventh-inning stretch” from before 1920. By that time the practice was already at least 50 years old.

Jared, Kelly and Jordyn
Jared, Kelly and Jordyn

Well, there is the explanation, now I can confuse people when they ask about the 7th inning stretch…  When I was writing this post I also wondered why we sing, “Take me out to the ball game” aren’t we already at a ball game?  Another thought, who wrote the song?  I just kept thinking, thoughts I should have had when I was 10 years old! (I am wondering if anyone thought “Perfect of Discipline” was a weird title or if it was just me, had to get that out so I could move on.)

So I utilized Wikipedia again and found some answers, the history of the song is a good one;

“Jack Norworth, while riding a subway train, was inspired by a sign that said “Baseball Today – Polo Grounds”.  In the song, Katie’s (and later Nelly’s) beau calls to ask her out to see a show. She accepts the date, but only if her date will take her out to the baseball game. The words were set to music by Albert Von Tilzer. (Norworth and Von Tilzer finally saw their first MLB games 32 and 20 years later, respectively.) The song was first sung by Norworth’s then-wife Nora Beyes and popularized by many other vaudeville acts. It was played at a ballpark for the first known time in 1934, at a high-school game in Los Angeles, and researchers think it made its debut at a major-league park later that year.”

There are two versions of the song the original is from 1908 and it was redone in 1927 I included the versions below:

1908 Version
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou1
Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:”
1927 Version
Nelly Kelly loved baseball games,
Knew the players, knew all their names.
You could see her there ev’ry day,
Shout “Hurray”
When they’d play.
Her boyfriend by the name of Joe
Said, “To Coney Isle, dear, let’s go”,
Then Nelly started to fret and pout,
And to him, I heard her shout:
[Chorus] Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.
Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:
Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
She would root just like any man,
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song
Brewers racing sausages!
Brewers racing sausages!

I found all of this very interesting, but the questions kept coming and I had this one, “When did the sausage races start with the Milwaukee Brewers?” It is fun to see and fans really get into it but, why do they do it? My ten year old brain has kicked into high gear! Guess where I found my answer…

“The Klement’s Famous Sausage Race began as a scoreboard animation in the early 1990s with just three characters—The Bratwurst, The Polish and The Italian—running toward Milwaukee County Stadium against a backdrop of the city of Milwaukee.

In the fall of 1992, Milwaukee graphic designer Michael Dillon of McDill Design presented an idea to Gabe Paul who was the Vice President of Operations for the Brewers, to transform the race from the scoreboard to live action.

On June 27, 1993, as the Sausages approached Milwaukee County Stadium on the scoreboard video, the left field doors swung open and—much to the surprise of players and fans—out came the larger-than-life mascots. The three made their way to home plate with The Bratwurst (worn by Dillon) winning the first-ever live race.

For the remainder of the 1993 season, the Sausages raced live only at those games with particularly high attendance. In 1994, the live Sausage race resumed on Sunday, May 29—the day the Brewers retired Robin Yount’s number 19 jersey—and became a fixture at every home game since—with Klement’s as the official sponsor.

At the outset, the Sausage Race featured only 3 entrants: The bratwurst, the Polish sausage, and the Italian sausage. The Hot Dog joined the race in the middle-1990s. In 2007, after a one-race tryout the previous year, The Chorizo rounded out the group of five Sausages fans see today.”

That is the end of the questions and today’s post!  I want to thank Jared and his family, Nico, you really inspired me to question more!  Jared’s family (Tara, Jim, Ryan, Becca and friends Jason and Chad) also donated money to my adventure and I appreciate that so much. You were all very generous and a joy to watch a game with.  Jared was one of the first people I told after I made the decision to leave my job, he is very supportive of this trip and his excitement is unwavering.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help .  Please, also ,share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!


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2 thoughts on “Day 40 “7th Inning Stretch”

  1. Thanks, John, for the explanation. I didn’t really know where it had come from … nor the Pres. Taft story. So don’t feel alone. And “Take me out to the ballgame” song, always knew it as a kid but always thought Harry Caray made it his trademark and was sang at other ballparks to mimic Chicago! 😀 I’m sure you provided information for a lot of people who just took it for granted was part of baseball – never really thinking about the “why”! Great blog.

  2. Ok John when did Harry Caray start singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and why doesn’t Bob Uecker sing lol

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