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Nadworny: The Stretch

Baseball season is finally over – and already I miss reading the daily box scores, watching games on TV and attending a few, when I’m lucky enough to do so. One of my favorite parts about going to a baseball game, at any level, has always been the seventh inning stretch, in between the top and bottom of the seventh, when players take a breather and fans generally stand up, walk around, grab a snack and maybe even participate in a sing-along.

When I was a kid, the only song was Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I loved standing up and belting it out with my family and friends, and they did too. Even when we dragged people to a game who didn’t like baseball, standing up and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame was a real highpoint of the game for them.

I think one of the reasons Ken Burns’ documentary on Baseball was so successful was that he played that song, over and over again, in many variations. When my kids were little, it was one of the first songs I taught them. And they sang it long before they ever tasted a Cracker Jack.

Singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame embodies being a baseball fan. To some it embodies the American spirit.

In my mind, the seventh inning stretch is reserved for that song. But now it plays second fiddle to God Bless America. When I grew up, the only people I knew who sang God Bless America lived in Philadelphia. My Philly cousins used to tell us they sang it in school every day. Here in Vermont, we never heard it in school - not even once. Then, in the 1970s when the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team won the Stanley Cup, it was noticed that before every game they played a recording of Kate Smith belting out that song. Luckily the other NHL teams were smart enough not to follow suit.

Baseball teams, however, started playing the song after 9/11 as a patriotic rallying point for fans. The terrorists wreaked a long list of havoc on our country through that assault, and I’m tempted to add playing God Bless America at baseball games to that list as well.

After all, we already sing the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of every baseball game - another patriotic tune that will never go down in the pantheon of the world’s most hum-worthy music. Come to think of it, why not America The Beautiful? At least it’s a song that actually has a beautiful melody.

During Baseball’s off-season people smarter than I am will be trying to solve the problems of steroids in the sport and the issue of how to use instant replay to help umpires. But I wish they’d take up the challenge of figuring out how to return Take Me Out to the Ballgame to it’s lone and rightful place in the seventh inning stretch. Just thinking about it makes me want to eat some peanuts!

Rich Nadworny is a designer who resides in Burlington and Stockholm.
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