A Tradition Impacting Baseball for Generations: The Seventh-Inning Stretch

by Jack MelansonSenior Writer

Baseball’s seventh-inning stretch is a tradition in America’s pastime that allows players and fans alike to get up and stretch between the top and bottom halves of the seventh-inning.

For Yankee fans, this is when Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” proudly plays throughout Yankee Stadium.

Other professional teams, such as the Boston Red Sox, play Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” during the “stretch,” while the New York Mets play “Che la Luna Mezzo Mare” by Lou Monte.

With that said, the most common song across the country is none of other than “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

However, the origin of this countlessly practiced tradition is up for debate.

The most recognized of seventh-inning stretch theories revolves around President William Howard Taft: the only president to also serve as a Chief Justice on the Supreme Court, and the only Commander-in-Chief to get stuck in a White House bathtub.

Political career aside, Taft was also a “baseball revolutionary,” according to Chris Landers of MLB.com.

“On April 14, 1910, Taft was enjoying the hometown Washington Senators’ Opening Day contest against the Philadelphia Athletics — the very same game at which he threw baseball’s first presidential first pitch. There was just one problem: At a reported 6-foot-2 and well over 300 pounds, Taft was a rather large man, and after a while, the rigid wooden seats at Washington’s Griffith Stadium took their toll on him.”

Landers continued.

“After the top half of the seventh, Taft stood up to stretch his legs — and, not wanting to be disrespectful of the highest office in the land, everybody else in attendance did, too. The Senators went on to win that day, the stretch soon became common practice and the rest is history.”

But one could argue that this “stretching” started on Jasper turf, an argument that Manhattan Jaspers’ hold close to their hearts.

Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., represents more than just the school’s mascot.

“A native of Ireland, Brother Jasper came to Manhattan College in 1861 as the head of resident students. During years at Manhattan, he founded the school’s first band, orchestra, glee club, various literary clubs, and became the school’s first athletic director,” read an excerpt from GoJaspers.com.

Not only was Brother Jasper the first athletic director at the College, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of all baseball fans.

“One of the greatest achievements of Brother Jasper was that he brought the then little-known sport of baseball to Manhattan College and became the team’s first coach … During one particularly warm and humid day … Brother Jasper noticed the Manhattan students were becoming restless and edgy as Manhattan came to bat in the seventh inning of a close game,” read GoJaspers.

The story continued.

“To relieve the tension, Brother Jasper called time-out and told the students to stand up and stretch for a few minutes until the game resumed … The Manhattan College practice of the seventh inning stretch spread into the major leagues, where it has now become a time-honored custom practiced by millions of fans.”

Richie Barella is a senior on the Manhattan College baseball team who shared his thoughts in this regard with the Quad last year.

“The story of Brother Jasper will forever be imbedded in my head,” said Barrella. “Brother Jasper was the first athletic director and baseball coach here at Manhattan College, while also being responsible for keeping the fans excited in each game. He realized that during the seventh inning of each game the fans would become restless.”

Barrella continued, as his genuine interest in baseball and the school’s mascot poured.

“To lighten the mood and regain the interests, Brother Jasper decided to stop the game and go to the student section and let them stand up and stretch for a little bit to get the blood flowing again,” said Barrella. “Ultimately creating the seventh inning stretch, which is now a tradition throughout every Major League Baseball stadium.”

And that it did.

“Since the College annually played the New York Giants in the late 1880s and into the 1890s at the old Polo Grounds, the Manhattan College practice of the ‘seventh inning stretch’ spread into the major leagues, where it has now become a time-honored custom practiced by millions of fans,” read GoJaspers.

You don’t have to be on Manhattan’s baseball team to be proud of the tale, however.

“I tell people that [Brother Jasper]  came up with baseball’s seventh inning stretch and they usually find that pretty interesting,” said Morgan Graziano, a senior at MC.

The least common, and possibly oldest, of seventh-inning stretch theories comes from Harry Wright, a founding father of professional baseball.

“In 1982, Cincinnati Magazine dug up a letter written in 1869 — 13 years before Jasper’s innovation — by Harry Wright, original Cincinnati Reds organizer … In it, Wright describes how Reds fans ‘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,’” said Landers.

Regardless of where the tradition was birthed, the seventh-inning stretch dates back to the the mid-to-late-19th century and has impacted baseball players and fans for generations.

And the “stretch” shows no signs of stopping.

Your grandparents may owe this beloved baseball tradition to Brother Jasper, as may your grandchildren.