BASEBALL IS HOME to some of the best traditions in all of sports, ones that have help to shape the game into American’s ever-enduring past time. Here’s a list of nine traditions that make baseball baseball:
1. The Ceremonial First Pitch
Feels like an appropriate place to start this list — the ceremonial first pitch is a bonanza for all lovers of schadenfreude, as more often than not the “pitchers” can’t even get the ball to the plate, let alone over it. The ceremonial first pitch was started by President Taft in 1910 and has since remained a great excuse to get any politician or reality TV star or Justin Bieber out to your game to make a fool of themselves.
2. Unregulated Field Dimensions
Most other major sports have defined the size of the playing surface, but not baseball, outside of the 90 feet between bases and the 60 feet 6 inches from the mound to the plate, there are no rules governing anything about the dimensions of your ballpark. Teams can place the home run fence as far away or as close as they like, make foul territory any size they want, they can build hills in center field, make one wall 37 feet high, put corners wherever they please.
It makes each park unique and creates a genuine home field advantage.
3. Paying for Baseball Food
Nothing says baseball like getting the guy four seats down to pay for your peanuts and cracker jacks, and knowing your change will make it back with the food. It really is like stepping back in time or turning back the clocks or whatever other clichés exist to say “felt like old times.” Which is kind of sad in a way, that people not stealing from you simply because they have the opportunity to should be considered a thing of the past, but whenever it happens it feels like old times.
4. Dugout Pranks
Maybe it’s the 162-game schedule, maybe its all the back-to-back games, but no one has as much fun with their teammates as ball players. Whether it’s a hot foot, or bubble gum on the hat or a shaving cream pie in the face during a post-game interview, these guys love to mess with one another and the TV cameras are always happy to capture the moment.
5. The Curtain Call
Football has the touchdown dance and in basketball allows you to poster-ize your opponent, but only in baseball will the crowd demand the player keep celebrating. One of the great traditions of the game when a homerun or great pitching performance leads to an ovation that will only be quieted by the player stepping out of the dugout to salute the crowd saluting him.
6. Throwing the ball back
The bleacher bums at Wrigley Field in Chicago started one of the best—some say dumbest—traditions, that of throwing home run balls hit by the opposing team back onto the field. Because when somebody gives you garbage, you throw it back at them! And when 30,000 people are chanting “Throw it Back! Throw it Back!” at you, you do as you’re told.
7. The Seventh Inning Stretch
There are few if any other sports out there—Cricket takes time out for tea and cucumber sandwiches—that knows it so long and potentially boring that they organize exercises for the fans. But baseball sun ironically cracks out its beloved 7th inning stretch at every game. It’s also feels like an admission that those stadium seats are horribly uncomfortable, so much so that it’s best if you stretch after a few hours in one.
8. Entrance Music for Relief Pitchers
Usually the exclusive provenience of fighters, and sports entertainers, somehow relief pitchers have managed to get themselves into the entrance music game. And good on them cause it’s great. When you’re in the home ballpark and you hear the first few notes of your closer’s music, it sends chills down the spine, and voices to the rafters, or thunder sticks clapping. Wild Thing!
9. Rally Caps
What do you do when your team is down late in the game and in need of a comeback? Why turn you hat inside out, of course. It may sound crazy to some—and it kind of is—but baseball players and fans have been doing it for years. And even though the results have been mix—by no means do all rally cap-wearing teams rally—there remains a belief among some that the rally caps are helpful. They’re also a great excuse to be silly-looking, which might help explain their longevity.