The seventh inning stretch is a tradition in American baseball. Spectators stand up and stretch their muscles between halves of the seventh inning and typically sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The break also gives the players some time to rest, and in many stadiums, it is the last chance for patrons to purchase alcoholic beverages. Some baseball teams have their own seventh inning stretch traditions, often consisting of a certain song sung in addition to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
The practice has been around since the very beginnings of professional baseball in the United States, though it was not standard practice until the 1920s. No one knows how exactly it began, but a practice very similar to the modern day seventh inning stretch was documented in a letter from 1869, the same year the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed. No matter how the tradition began, standing and getting a bit of exercise was certainly welcome to spectators of the game after sitting on hard wooden seats for two hours, and the idea caught on quickly.
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" became incorporated into the break during the 1970s, when famed baseball announcer Harry Caray began singing the song over the air during his job with the Chicago White Sox. When he joined the Chicago Cubs in 1981, Caray continued the practice, and his nationwide popularity led to fans of all teams adopting the tradition. Today, the Cubs invite guest celebrities to lead their crowd in the song as Caray once did.
Many Major League Baseball teams make the seventh inning stretch their own by playing a song with special meaning to the home team after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." For example, the Milwaukee Brewers play "The Beer Barrel Polka" and the Houston Texans play "Deep in the Heart of Texas." After the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, "God Bless America" became popular to sing during the break, either in addition to or in place of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."