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Some of the greatest motivational speeches and legendary musical performances have come at halftime of sporting events. It is a time where players get a break from game action and a time where coaches get to regroup and change their game plan.
Fans often take a restroom break or go to the concession stand for a hot dog or relax in their seats to enjoy the halftime performance on the field or court.
But there is one sport that is very popular around the world that does not offer its players and coaches a halftime.
Baseball does not have halftime for several reasons. Instead, there is a seventh-inning stretch that serves as a short break in the last third of the game.
In the rest of this article, we will discuss halftime and the seventh-inning stretch in more detail.
Why is There No Halftime in Baseball?
When looking at the sports that have halftime and the sports that do not, it is easy to see a pattern in how those games are played that leads to an understanding of why certain sports have halftime and others do not.
The sports that have a halftime are sports that segment their games into four quarters or two halves. Baseball does not have quarters or halves. Instead, it divides its games into nine innings.
Furthermore, the sports that have halftime are sports with fewer breaks in game action. For example, basketball, football, and soccer may have brief pauses in action, but for the most part, there is a short break after each quarter, and the rest of the game is fast-paced.
In baseball, however, there are frequent stoppages in play after each inning, so there is not a need for a longer halftime period.
Also, halftime gives coaches a chance to reevaluate their game plan and adjust it where necessary. Baseball, being a slower-paced game, allows plenty of time for coaches to adjust any game plans or strategies.
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of breaks between innings which would allow for adjustments to be made.
All in all, halftime is a time for breaks and adjustments. Sports that offer frequent breaks, like baseball, do not need halftime.
What is the Seventh-Inning Stretch?
While baseball may not offer its players and fans a halftime, it does offer a seventh-inning stretch.
The seventh-inning stretch is a long-held tradition in baseball where fans stand up and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” between the top and bottom half of the seventh-inning.
This break is more for the fans than it is the players and coaches as it gives them a chance to stand up, stretch, and enjoy a tradition unique to the sport of baseball.
One of the most heralded seventh-inning stretch traditions in all of baseball occurs at Wrigley Field for every home game. Former announcer, Harry Caray used to sing the song over the PA system as fans would sing along.
Instead of singing, “let’s root, root, root for the home team,” Caray and fans would sing, “let’s root, root root for the Cubbies.” The tradition still stands as the team often plays a recording of Caray, who is now deceased, singing the song during the seventh-inning stretch.
Singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is not the only seventh-inning stretch tradition in baseball. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers often sing “The Beer Barrel Polka” while the Houston Astros play “Deep in the Heart of Texas”.
After the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, many Major League Baseball teams began playing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch instead of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.
Much like the National Anthem, fans would stand and remove their hats to pay respect to the American Flag which was often on display during this time.
The seventh-inning stretch is certainly not required at baseball games, but many college and professional teams still honor it in order to create a fun atmosphere for their fans.
How Long is the Seventh-Inning Stretch?
It is hard to really compare the seventh-inning stretch to halftime because it does not take place in the middle of the game, and it is not near as long as most halftimes.
The seventh-inning stretch can sometimes be an extended break between innings, but usually it is no longer than a normal inning change.
Sometimes at professional games, guest performers will sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” which can sometimes take a bit longer. For the most part, teams like to keep the seventh-inning stretch short in order to keep the game moving at a good pace.
There is really no set time for the seventh-inning stretch. Some stadiums spend more time singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and partaking in other seventh-inning stretch traditions than others.
How did Baseball’s Seventh-Inning Stretch Originate?
The seventh-inning stretch is not a new concept in America’s Pastime. It has been practiced for more than a century.
While it has been around for many decades, the origin of the seventh-inning stretch cannot be traced back to one specific instance. In fact, there are several different theories on how it was started.
One of the most popular theories is that President William Howard Taft actually assisted in starting the tradition. In 1910, he attended an Opening Day game in Washington, and between the top and bottom half of the seventh inning, he stood up to stretch his legs.
Fans thought he was leaving the game, so out of respect for his position, they stood up along with him.
Another belief is that Brother Jasper, the head baseball coach at Manhattan College actually started the tradition in 1882 when he called a timeout in the middle of the seventh inning and asked fans to stand up and stretch their legs.
The New York Giants, who played games at Manhattan College, supposedly adopted his seventh inning timeout and began asking fans to stretch during the seventh inning.
While these are all likely theories, a letter written by former Cincinnati Red Stockings manager Harry Wright in 1869 referenced the seventh-inning stretch.
In his letter, Wright says, “The spectators all arise between halves of the seventh inning, extend their legs and arms and sometimes walk about.” The discovery of this letter further supports the fact that the origin of this long standing tradition is unknown.
Why is the Seventh-Inning Stretch at the End of the Game?
Another unique part of the seventh-inning stretch is the fact that it occurs in the last third of the game instead of at the halfway point. But whoever created the seventh-inning stretch clearly had a reason for this.
The seventh-inning stretch occurs toward the end of the game instead of at the halfway point because it is believed that fans are in more need of a break at the end than the middle.
Baseball can be a long game, but waiting around for the end is well worth a fan’s time. That is if they can make it that far. It is believed that the last third of the game is when fans begin to become restless and in need of a recharge.
As stated earlier, baseball is a slower paced game than sports like football and basketball, so fans don’t feel as much of an adrenaline rush early on; therefore, they are not as tired at the halfway point as they are in other sports.
The same can be said for players. The last three innings are typically the most crucial part of a game. Giving players a pick me up in the seventh inning vs. the fourth or fifth allows them to regain their focus for the most important part of the game.
What is a Half Inning?
Even some regular baseball fans may struggle with baseball terminology at times. It can understandably be difficult.
Each inning consists of two half innings, a top and bottom half. For example, the top of the first inning and the bottom of the first inning are both considered half innings. Each team plays one half inning on offense and the other half inning on defense.
Some mistakenly refer to the break between the top and bottom of the inning as a half inning. This time, however, is typically referred to as “between half innings”. It is not the most creative name, but it accurately describes what the time is.
The point here is that the half inning is the top or bottom of the inning, not the time between each inning change.
What Other Sports Do Not Have Halftime?
Baseball is not the only sport that does not have halftime. There are several others that do not partake in the event as well.
Sports that do not partake in halftime are golf, tennis, swimming, track and field, cricket, and other slower paced sports.
None of these sports are segmented into quarters or halves like basketball, football, and soccer; therefore, a halftime is not necessary.
Also, these sports have more breaks throughout the game. For example, golf has built in breaks between strokes. In tennis, there are breaks between sets. Track and field has breaks between events, and the athletes often don’t compete in the same events giving them more time to rest.
What is a Halftime Show?
In many professional sports, the game is not the only entertainment provided for fans. Sometimes, fans have the pleasure of witnessing a halftime show.
A halftime show is a live performance, typically musical, during halftime of a sporting event. Championship games are notorious for booking famous artists to perform at halftime.
The Super Bowl is the most anticipated halftime show in all of sports. Last year, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and 50 Cent headlined what many believed was one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows in recent memory.
Other recent halftime performers have been Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Lenny Kravitz, Katy Perry, Missy Elliot, and many more.
Of course, it is impossible to discuss halftime shows without talking about Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during her performance with Justin Timberlake during a performance in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.
It is because of this performance that most halftime performances are now aired on a delay to provide TV networks time to censor any unexpected inappropriate content.
It is also common for TV networks to air their own halftime shows which consist of broadcasters and analysts offering their commentary of the game. Most of these halftime shows consist of former coaches and players.
Where did “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” originate?
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” originated in 1908 when songwriter Jack Norworth was inspired by a sign reading “Baseball Today – Polo Grounds” while riding on a subway. There are actually more lyrics to the song than are usually sung during the seventh-inning stretch.
Will there ever be a halftime in baseball?
The odds of baseball ever adding a halftime are slim. Major League Baseball is currently in the process of revamping several rules to speed up the pace of the game. Adding a halftime that would make the game even longer would be a step in the wrong direction.
What happens in the locker room during halftime?
In the locker room, coaches often give their players motivation as well as adjustments to the game plan that may be necessary. Players also rest and recharge for the second half of the game. Sometimes, this means drinking plenty of fluids and maybe even eating a small snack.