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The seventh-inning stretch is a tradition in baseball that takes place between the halves of the seventh inning of any game. Fans generally stand up and stretch out their arms, legs, necks, backs, calves, fingers, elbows, and other muscles and sometimes walk around. It is a popular time to get a late-inning snack as well; many teams end beer sales at this point. The stretch also serves as a short break for the players. If a game goes into a fifth extra inning, a similar "fourteenth-inning stretch" is celebrated. In softball games, amateur games scheduled for only seven innings, or in doubleheaders (except for Major League Baseball, both ends are seven innings each per regulation), a "fifth-inning stretch" may be substituted.
The origin of the seventh inning stretch is said to be in the story of Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., the man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan College in the late 1800s. Being the Prefect of Discipline as well as the coach of the team, it fell to Brother Jasper to supervise the student fans at every home game. On one particularly hot and muggy day in 1882, during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans, the Prefect noticed his charges becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind. It worked so well he began calling for a seventh-inning rest period at every game. The Manhattan College custom spread to the major leagues after the New York Giants were charmed by it at an exhibition game, and the rest is history.
But like many myths, it is difficult to certify any origin. A letter written by Harry Wright of the Cincinnati Red Stockings dated 1869 — 13 years earlier than Brother Jasper's inspired time-out — documented something very similar to a seventh-inning stretch. In the letter, he makes the following observation about the fans' ballpark behavior: "The spectators all arise between halves of the seventh inning, extend their legs and arms and sometimes walk about. In so doing they enjoy the relief afforded by relaxation from a long posture upon hard benches."
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