By Roger Weber
According to the Baseball Almanac website, the first song ever
written about baseball was The Baseball Polka in 1858. Although this may have been the first music about baseball, the first
music ever to be played actually at a baseball game may have been a playing of the national anthem by a Brooklyn band in 1862. The National
Anthem is still heard before all major league games. But the traditional seventh inning stretch did not start until several
Classic rumor has it that in 1910 President William Howard Taft
started the practice. According to the story, Taft, who was attending opening day in Washington
D.C., stood up in the middle of the seventh inning. Fans around Taft thought
he was leaving the stadium and stood in respect, expecting the president to walk out. Taft, though, sat back down and enjoyed
the rest of the game, and thus the seventh inning stretch was born.
Another story goes differently, though. The seventh inning stretch
may also be attributed to Boston fans that in the 1870s would
stand to cheer their team which seemingly more often than not would explode with many runs in the seventh inning.
Another legend says that in the late 1880s students from Manhattan College
used the gatherings of people at baseball games to promote physical fitness and performed calisthenics during the seventh
Whatever the actual origin of the stretch, it is now a part
of baseball tradition. Music, though, at least the music we commonly hear during the seventh inning, wasn't even written until
the twentieth century.
Jack Norworth was a popular New
York entertainer and songwriter making a good living in vaudeville. But one song he wrote would forever
change the way baseball games are enjoyed. On a train ride to Manhattan in 1908 Norworth spent fifteen minutes scribbling
on a scrap of paper a story about a baseball fan named Katie Casey who liked to "root, root, root for the home team" at the
"old ball game". His lyrics, paired with music by Albert von Tilzer, became popular within a year of their publication. In
1927 Norworth changed a few details in the lyrics, renaming Katie Casey Nelly Kelly. This song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
is now sung all over the country during the seventh inning stretch and again in extra inning games at the fourteenth inning
In 2001 following the terrorist attacks on September 11, baseball
adopted "God Bless America" as a secondary
seventh inning stretch song which is played during the break on many special occasions and at many parks on Sundays.
Many other famous baseball songs have been written over the years
including "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio" by Alan Courtney & Ben Homer, "Centerfield" by John Fogerty, "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen
and "Talkin' baseball" by Terry Cashman.