Answer Man: Why do we sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ before ball games?

September 12, 2018

Mr. Answer Man: Once again football season is here with the national anthem controversy. My question is, Where did this start — playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at baseball, basketball, etc., games?

I remember a few years back (1976) at a hockey game Kate Smith sang “God Bless America.” Why can’t this be done before games now? “America the Beautiful” also.

I suspect more people know the words of these songs than the “Star Spangled Banner.” — Maryann Heidtke, Chatfield

The Star Spangled Banner was written as a poem by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The poem was later put to music from a popular British drinking song. It was named the national anthem by Congress in 1931.

According to the Baseball Reference website, the custom of playing the song during ballgames began when it was played during the seventh-inning stretch of the opening game of the 1918 World Series in Chicago.

A military band played “The Star Spangled Banner” and the players all bared their heads and turned to face the flag at attention as the crowd sang along.

“From then on, the song was played at every World Series game, every season opener, and whenever a band was present to play it,” Baseball Reference states.

The custom of playing the national anthem before every game began during World War II, when the installation of public address systems made it practical. The custom quickly spread to other sports.

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