Mains: The seventh-inning stretch and ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on March 26, 2018, with mention of SABR member John Thorn:

The seventh-inning stretch is unique in sports. In no other American sport is there a specific break in the game during which spectators are encouraged to stand and sing along to a tune. Football has halftimes, and there are breaks between periods in basketball and hockey and soccer. But none are comparable to the seventh-inning stretch.

There are two uniquely endearing aspects of the stretch. The first is that it exists at all. Like much of baseball history, its origins are murky. One theory credits it to President William Howard Taft, who saw the Senators host the Athletics on Opening Day in 1910. The story goes that Taft—a man of, um, considerable substance—grew increasingly uncomfortable in his wooden seat, and stood to stretch in the middle of the seventh inning. The spectators at the game followed suit out of respect. This origin story is satisfying in both explanation and mental imagery, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be true.

Some historians point to Brother Jasper, the coach of the Manhattan College team. In a game against the semipro Metropolitans in 1882, Brother Jasper, noticing the students in the stands becoming restless, called a timeout in the seventh inning and encouraged everyone at the game to stand and stretch. He instituted the rest period at his team’s games, and the New York Giants supposedly adopted the custom following an exhibition against Brother Jasper’s Manhattan College squad.

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Originally published: March 26, 2018. Last Updated: March 26, 2018.