Please remove your cats

I posted on Facebook yesterday during World Series game 2:

Seventh inning stretch, and the customary musical interlude. What I *heard* was that we were instructed to take off our cats for the singing of “God Bless America”. You would have thought that “caps” was so over-determined in this context that no one could mis-hear it, but I somehow managed.

If, however, you were wearing a cat, I suppose it would have been a patriotic gesture to take it off.

My original point was about mishearing something that should have been entirely clear in context; in contrast, so many mishearings involve infrequent or unexpected bits of text, especially in conditions of some noise (for instance, when the material is sung — hence the many mondegreens in lyrics). But Facebook being a social medium, things drifted fast — to music during the seventh inning stretch and to cats perching on people’s heads.

Ned Deily led off with a comment that combined “God Bless America” and the cat theme: “Lynx that I love”, a play on the second line of Irving Berlin’s patriotic song, “Land that I love”.

Other commenters took “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to be the canonical seventh-inning stretch song (with “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the national anthem, sung at the beginning of the game); Michael Palmer suggested a relationship between “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and patriotic songs like “God Bless America” and the national anthem:

To most Americans “Take Me Out to the Ball Game: *is* a patriotic song.

There’s something in that.

Then there’s the custom of standing up and uncovering the head, both gestures of respect, accorded to the national anthem and now, by extension, to some other patriotic songs in some contexts. (In a side thread, Michael Palmer wondered about Americans standing for “The Hallelujah Chorus” — a religious, rather than patriotic, anthem, but then these two genres overlap in the minds of many Americans.)

Finally, on removing cats, Jerry Sadock commented:

You’d only have to remove your cat if you were wearing it on your head, not, for example, if you were using it as a loin cloth.

Tales and videos about cats perched on heads followed. Minty toothpaste and mouthwash were involved, suggesting a catnip-mint crossover (the plants are closely related).

Now to Wikipedia on the seventh-inning stretch:

In baseball in the United States and Canada, the seventh-inning stretch is a tradition that takes place between the halves of the seventh inning of a game – in the middle of the seventh inning. Fans generally stand up and stretch out their arms and legs and sometimes walk around. It is a popular time to get a late-game snack as well; many vendors end alcohol sales at this point. The stretch also serves as a short break for the players.

And on the musical front:

In modern baseball, standing up and singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch is a popular tradition. The 1908 Tin Pan Alley standard was written by vaudeville star Jack Norworth, who had ironically never attended an actual baseball game prior to writing the song.

There is no certain date when the tradition began, but the practice gained exceptional notoriety from broadcaster Harry Caray. [Then a long association with the Chicago Cubs followed.]

… Many teams will also play a local traditional song either before or after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.

… Following September 11, 2001, the song God Bless America became common during the seventh-inning stretch, sometimes in addition to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and sometimes replacing it entirely. Some stadiums play God Bless America only on Sundays. At Yankee Stadium the song is now played at every game, in addition to Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

… Since 2002, God Bless America has been performed at all Major League Baseball All-Star Games and playoff games, often with a celebrity recording artist (Take Me Out to the Ball Game is sometimes done afterward with a recording of the legend Harry Caray), as well as Opening Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Patriot Day, and many post-season games.

That brings us to “God Bless America” at the World Series.

Finally, standing for “The Hallelujah Chorus”, which is by no means a specifically American thing:

The custom of standing for the “Hallelujah” chorus originates from a belief that, at the London premiere, King George II did so, but there is no convincing evidence that the king was present, or that he attended any subsequent performance of Messiah; the first reference to the practice of standing appears in a letter dated 1756. (link)


One Response to “Please remove your cats”

  1. Jan Says:

    And no hissing under any circumstances.

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