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Chants are unique to baseball compared with the other major team sports. Almost anyone who’s ever been around a youth ballfield has heard on a pitch, “Hey, batter, batter! Swing!” Or, between pitches, a rhyme including “Pitcher’s got a rubber arm …”
A baseball chant is a short phrase, or group of words, shouted by 2 or more players or fans during a game. These expressions are often repeated, or done in a rhythmic, “singsong,” or even rhyming manner, by groups of players or off-field game attendees.
Baseball chants can be uttered with or without rhymes; and they can simulate poetry readings or songs. Sometimes chants are sung, other times shouted.
They are expressed to boost the spirit of players or a team; or with intent to deflate the opposing team. Mainly, chants are done to keep fans and bench players involved with the game, and to keep baseball games fun.
Chants, chatter, banter ~ whatever you want to call it, verbal cheers and jeers have been around since baseball was organized into game play.
There are no hard and fast rules about what is a chant. There are, however, a few things that are not a chant, which we will go over below.
In short, baseball chants are like children’s poems or rhymes, only hollered loud enough for someone (namely the opposition) to hear hundreds of feet away; and they are usually shouted in unison between 2 or more people whether in the dugout, stands, or off to the side of the playing field.
In the early days of baseball, games were more intimate, with benches and stands closer to the action, and little or no electronic amplification to dominate sounds.
Plus, the game back then was considered “pastoral” in nature, meaning played on open land set aside for animal grazing, or leisurely. So imagine that scene in the early 1800s, and think of the noise. Or lack thereof.
Additionally, the game itself was slow in nature, with a lot of standing around waiting for balls to be struck and batters to run.
So players, entire teams, and groups of fans soon learned to fill the silence with banter. It probably started as jeers from a dugout to the team on the field. Eventually entire teams organized memorized chants; and groups of fans did the same.
Think about it: the chanting began long ago, when players on the field could actually hear them.
This went on for a long time, basically ingraining itself into the game, even when very large crowds, amplified sound, and seating farther away from home plate and the dugouts became commonplace.
Even so, it is satisfying for many fans to do the chants, whether the ballplayers hear them or not.
What are chants at events? Think of the audience at the end of a concert, when they clap 3 times loudly, over and over and over. That represents a clap for a very old chant, “We want more.” Audiences used to say that over and over in unison to try to convince artists to do encores.
A famous sports chant is the “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” shouted jointly by Americans at international sporting contests, when the home country team is doing well, or needs some moral support.
Perhaps the most famous example of a chant in history is in the Bible, when Jesus awaited a decision on his fate from Pontious Pilate. The crowd witnessing the moment originally chanted “Hosanna,” or “hosanna in the highest,” a prayer, or at times, a nationalistic chant.
However, ultimately when Pilate asked if he should release Jesus, the crowd changed its chant to “Crucify him! Cricify him!”
Baseball chants are done primarily for a couple of reasons: to help a team win; or simply to have more fun during a game. It’s pretty much that simple.
Some longtime baseball aficionados might make arguments about the psychological impact of chants on the opposing team (See section below). A lot of parents, especially mothers, will remember being involved with chants because it was hoot to do during what usually were boring matches.
Players and fans alike might perfect really pointed chants, and perform them to perfection, with intent on impacting game play. Believe it or not, that does happen.
Players rarely do chants just for fun, especially as they age. In girls’ fastpitch softball, a lot of young players will join in on chants as a way to break up the monotony of being in the dugout for long stretches, while at the same time showing some team spirit.
Regarding that, consider this well-known coaches phrase: Boys feel better when they play better; girls play better when they feel better. Hence, super-positive chants in fastpitch softball, rooting on a player or team.
It’s an understatement to say not all baseball chants are the same. The ways to divide the baseball chant types are almost endless.
Many chants are aimed at whoever is standing out on the field. Think about it, defensive players in baseball have nowhere to go, if they wanted to get away from verbal abuse.
The game is quite unique in that the defensive players are bound to a small chunk of real estate until his team can get 3 outs to get out of there.
So the most notable type of what we’re talking about here is the:
This is when a player or group of players on a team, while in the dugout, bark out verbal jousts that are more than a word or 2, and are not limited by person (e.g. a friend barking at a friend out on the field).
These chants are usually organized and synchronized, and are intended to rattle a player standing out on the field, usually the pitcher, who in baseball dictates the tempo of play.
Many pitchers like to get in a “rhythm” on the mound, kind of a routine with few breaks, to break the monotony of throwing an item over and over and over again.
Busting a pitcher’s rhythm, such as by making him step off the rubber when he hears something from the opposing dugout, or hesitating to step on the rubber for the same reason, can result in a loss of focus and command of the game as he had previously.
Classic dugout chants include ones noted at top here, which involve saying repeatedly that “Pitcher’s got a rubber arm!” Or incorporating that phrase into a mini-poem, recited by lots of players in the dugout.
I remember playing on a team that would uniformly mouth the sounds of a circus song, when the team on the field made an error, or otherwise terrible muff, with intent to keep them unnerved for plays to come. We might even shout, “Shoot the man out of the cannon!” or “Where’s the trapeze?”
(In reality the latter are really jeers; but the mouthing of the sounds of a circus song certainly sounded like a chant).
As the name infers, this chant involves a person or persons in the stands serving as leader of the chant, and others to agree to join along. These can be the same as dugout chants, but mainly these are more positive, more like singing to support your team ~ as opposed to rattling the opposition.
We want a pitcher,
Not a belly itcher
Pitcher’s got a rubber arm (5 claps; repeat)
A lot of baseball chants are humorous, and are intended to be so. See examples below.
The Classic Grandstands Chant
Let’s go (Team Name)
[4 or 5 hand claps or foot stomps, as in clap-clap clap-clap-clap]
Here we go (Team Name)!
[4 or 5 hand claps or foot stomps, as in clap-clap clap-clap-clap]
The Other Classic Grandstands Chant
Here we go (Team Name), here we go! [stomp, stomp or clap, clap]
Here we go (Team Name) here we go! [Repeat until pitcher steps on rubber]
The Challenge (to opposing fans)
We’ve got spirit, yes we do
We got spirit, how about you?
We’re number one!
Can’t be number two!
And we’re going to beat,
The whoopsies out of you!
Children’s Rhyme II
Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe,
Catch an (Opposing Team Name) by the toe
If they holler don’t let go,
Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe
2 cents, 4 cents,
6 cents, a dollar
All for the (Your Team)
Stand up and holler!
These chants are intended to motivate your own pitcher, or “get inside the grill” (head) of the opposing hurler.
(Note: there are many variations of this chant, sometimes swapping claps or foot stomps for words)
Pitcher’s got a rubber arm! (Done alone, or followed by, doo dah, doo dah)
Pitcher’s got a rubber arm! (Alone, or oh, de do dah de)
Beep-beep, beep-beep, listen to the phone ring
The pitcher’s got an arm that’s a washing machine!
Can you spare some change? Can you spare a quarter?
Cuz your pitcher’s arm looks like it’s out of order!
The Back Easter
Hey, there pitcher,
Whatcha gonna do?
(Batter’s Name) is comin’ after you!
In reality, there are no rules for chants in baseball, other than the umpire’s discretion to call unsportsmanlike conduct. Usually that just involves a “Knock it off” warning by the ump, but can result in ejection from the park.
That’s an extreme, rare case. With no formal rules, the following are tips on baseball chant etiquette so you stay within the unwritten bounds.
- Be positive because chants are supposed to make baseball games more enjoyable
- Even when criticizing the opposition, do it in a lighthearted way
- Loud is okay, but do not scream
- Repetition of phrases like “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!” are acceptable, in moderation
- Repeated phrases are usually presented rhythmically
- Chants are most often done in a monotonous tone of voice
- Overall, be respectful
- Do not scream, or otherwise try to interrupt or disrupt play on the field
- do not keep chanting when a batter is in the middle of an at-bat (basically once he steps inside the batter’s box)
- No vulgar language; absolutely no cussing
- No picking on a single player
Importance Of Baseball Chants In Baseball Games
The significance or value of chants in baseball is debatable. There are some who feel it is an effective way to impact the physical play of the other team, by psychologically impacting the mental state of opposing players.
Other people think that’s hogwash. These folks are more apt to see chants as ways people who are not on the field ~ e.g. spectators, and players on the bench ~ can become involved in games.
Rooting or cheering players happens in every sport. Did you ever yell for a player or team at a football or basketball game?
Other sports are different because the offense and defense are constantly on the field of play. Think about the major sports: all besides baseball are played on a rectangle, with some type of goal on either end.
In baseball, a single team dominates the field of play, and that’s the squad on defense. The offensive team almost entirely sits in the dugout watching the batter, or they are running the bases.
This separation provides opportunity for organized chants. Baseball provides more breaks in play, and times when certain players are more apt to hear vocalized words, than the other sports which are usually played in louder venues because their fields (or courts or rinks) are surrounded by fans.
Psychological Debate about Baseball Chants
Baseball is a game of many things, among them confidence. Not many baseball players who lack confidence succeed in the game.
It’s just very hard to play baseball effectively. Knowing this, fans or players on a bench might work to bust the confidence of a pitcher or other player on the field. Sometimes to do this they use chants. Example:
- A pitcher throws up to 96 mph, and during warmups looks outright cocky because he knows it’s hard to hit heat
- Fans or bench players might taunt the pitcher about accuracy, like with a chant that pretends pitches will hit the backstop, or nearby parked cars
- A player has a known history of shanking even routine throws
- A chant reminding that player not to choke on the next toss
- A team might appear to be coming back in a game, or “gaining momentum”
- A chant to remind them to look at the scoreboard, or that they’re still not in the lead and need to try harder
It works in the opposite way, too. That is, to boost the confidence of a player or players on your own team. As in:
- Your pitcher appears to be tiring, or just struggling to throw consistently or in a rhythm
- A chant to remind him that he’s our best, or that we know he will zing the ball past hitters
- A batter stepping into home plate has known confidence issues against a particular pitcher or team
- Chant reminding him that we know he will bop a ball hard, or that it’s the pitcher who should fear this matchup
Do these chants make impacts psychologically? Perhaps. However, that’s very difficult to study and determine with data.
For certain is that chants add spiritually, enthusiasm, and fun and entertainment to games.
We mentioned more opportunities for chanting during baseball games compared with other team sports. When are they? Consider:
- Team chants before the game starts is quite common; let’s their team players know they have support behind them
- 7th-inning stretch also is a common time for chants, though this is only in the higher levels (college and up) that play 9 innings.
- When your team’s hitter crosses home plate after a home run; to keep momentum
- When bases are loaded
- During time outs
- During substitutions of pitchers, players, or batters
- After outstanding fielding plays
- After double plays (and triple plays!)
- Basically during gaps in play
- Between innings during the pitcher’s few warm up tosses
Chants are groups of words expressed in unison by 2 or more people. However, in baseball there is a lot more loud verbal action going on, and a lot of it is not chants. Examples
(For an umpire) You’re doing a bad job for a guy who only works 2 hours a day!
During baseball games, players kind of chat out loud, usually to themselves, in support of a teammate. Often this involves the infielders saying words of encouragement for the pitcher. This also comes from the dugout when a player shouts something to motivate the person batting.
Hey Ump, how can you sleep with all these lights on?
A player or players on a team insulting a player or players on the other team. These are typically 1-on-1 affairs, though teams “piling” on to a single player is common.
It’s a reason why coaches say don’t have “rabbit ears,” that is, don’t react harshly to something you heard ~ because it indicates to the opposition that you indeed heard what they said. Having rabbit ears out on the field can result in a lot of abuse.
Among teammates, fans, or both
Same as above
Support for a player or team to do well or play better
Get to an opposing player or team psychologically, with intent for them to make mistakes or play poorly
Attempt to inject life into a team that as a whole appears listless
Because fans or players on the bench can get bored easily during games
7. Goof Off
For whatever reason, goofing off seems ingrained into baseball players’ minds
Question: Are there illegal baseball chants?
Answer: Not in rulebooks, but in an umpire’s judgment for either sportsmanship, or safety. Baseball umpires get a lot of discretion in games, because they are expected to “run” or manage games, meaning avoiding things that would mar, soil, or otherwise ruin a game. There are no specific chants that are illegal, per se. However, cussing, extremely aggressive wording against a player or team, or threats, can be called for unsportsmanlike conduct, with the penalty up to the umpire.
Q.: Can baseball players hear chants?
A.: Certainly in non-professional games, even up to the college level. In the pros, such as in Major League Baseball, it depends on where the player might be located, how many people get involved with a chant, how much energy they put into it, and how long they choose to do it. Decibel levels at baseball games can ebb and flow, and the really good chanters know when to start a chant when it gets too quiet.