The Star Spangled Banner

From BR Bullpen

"The Star Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from a poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key after seeing the bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore, MD in the night of September 13-14th, during the War of 1812.

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society - "The Anacreontic Song" (or "To Anacreon in Heaven"). The melody was quite popular and various other songs had been composed using its music, although most of these are long-forgotten. "The Star Spangled Banner" was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931.

The first time it is recorded that the song was played at a baseball game was on May 15, 1862, at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn, NY. The baseball game was led off by a band concert that included the tune.

On September 5, 1918, at Comiskey Park, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs were playing the opening game of the World Series, which started earlier than usual due to World War I. During the 7th-inning stretch, a military band played "The Star Spangled Banner" and Fred Thomas, on leave from the Navy, snapped to attention. From then on, the song has been played at every World Series game, every season opener, and whenever a band is present to play it. The custom of playing it before every game began during World War II, when the installation of public address systems made it practical.

Puerto Rican singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano shocked some people when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. This rendition started contemporary "Star-Spangled Banner" controversies.

The Yale Whiffenpoofs, were invited to sing the national anthem during the Game 1 of the 1989 World Series because of the recent death of Commissioner Bart Giamatti who had also been a former Yale President. They intermixed the Star-Spangled Banner with America the Beautiful. They were initially booed, but won the crowd over to rousing applause by the end of their performance.

In 1990, comedian Roseanne Barr was asked to sing the anthem at a San Diego Padres game. As her voice was not well liked by the audience, the large crowd heckled her and threw objects onto the field in her direction. Her poor performance might have been forgotten, except that she appended a couple of gestures associated with baseball players (adjusting one's "protective cup" and spitting on the ground), which drew widespread complaints. President George H.W. Bush even stepped into the ensuing fracas, calling Barr's performance "disgraceful".

Robert Merrill sang the national anthem at seven World Series games, more than any other performer, and all seven came at Yankee Stadium: in Game 3 of the 1976, 1978, and 1999 World Series, at the 1977, 1981 and 1996 World Series openers, and Game 2 of the 1998 World Series.

The Frederick Keys of the Carolina League were named in honor of Francis Scott Key.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Landers: "Why do we sing the national anthem before sporting events?", "Cut 4",, May 16, 2017. [1]
  • Doug Miller: "Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked; Poem that became national anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric",, September 14, 2014. [2]
  • Joseph L. Price: Perfect Pitch: The National Anthem for the National Pastime, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 2018. ISBN 9780881466560
  • Jim Reineking: "It's been 100 years since start of World Series with far-reaching historical impact", USA Today, September 5, 2018. [3]
  • Dan VanDeMortel: "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave: Mudcat Grant's Odyssey to Sing the National Anthem", in Cecilia M. Tan, ed.: Steel City Stories, The National Pastime, SABR, 2018, pp. 94-98.