Baseball may be the American Pastime, but how many fans can boast a truly exhaustive knowledge of the sport and the culture surrounding it? For casual spectators and connoisseurs alike, here are nine facts for nine innings—at least enough to fill a catcher’s mitt.
1. Did they ever get their peanuts and cracker jacks? “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the unofficial anthem of American baseball, was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer. Neither of them had ever been to a baseball game.
2. The dawn of an era. The first World Series was played in 1903, a best-of-nine series matching Pittsburgh with Boston. Boston won the series 5-3.
3. O’er the ramparts we watched. The first sporting event performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was on September 5th, 1918, in the middle of the Seventh Inning of Game 1 of the World Series. The Boston Red Sox were facing off against the Chicago Cubs at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, and would go on to win the series four games to two.
4. Was “Dependable” his middle name? Cal Ripken, Jr., shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles, didn’t miss a single game in 16 years. Between April 30, 1982 to September 19, 1998, he played in 2632 consecutive games.
5. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. The shortest game ever played in Major League history lasted only 51 minutes. It took place on September 28th, 1919. The then-New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1 at the Polo Grounds in New York, New York.
6. Them’s a lotta dogs . . . During Major League Baseball games, about 25,500,000 hotdogs and 5,508,900 sausages are sold every year. That’s enough to stretch from Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
7. Did anyone hear a sonic boom? In 1946, Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller allegedly threw a fastball at an astonishing 107.9 mph during a pitching display at Griffith Field. This is typically credited as the fastest baseball ever thrown. However, the Guinness Book of World Records officially considers a pitch by Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman as the fastest. On September 24th, 2010, during a Reds game against the San Diego Padres, Chapman chucked a ball at 105.1 mph, cleaving the air with the force of his arm.
8. Don’t forget to count ’em! Each baseball is legally required to feature 108 double stitches, with the first and last stitch hidden under the leather.
And last but not least, for all baseball fans, but especially for our Jersey peeps . . .
9. Baseball’s most closely guarded secret. Baseball’s official rule book stipulates that all new baseballs be rubbed in mud from a tributary of the Delaware River in New Jersey. The so-called “Magic Mud” helps pitchers maintain their grip without damaging the ball’s surface. The mud has been harvested and supplied by the same family since the 1930s. The precise location of the mud is kept secret from everyone outside of the family—including the MLB.