ESPN Kids Writer Mailbag

Q: Who created the 7th Inning Stretch? And where? Adam from Kentland, IN

A: Adam, one of the only things we know for sure is that the 7th Inning Stretch is one of the greatest baseball traditions. Between the bottom and the top of the 7th inning, fans get out of their seats, stretch and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It's not entirely certain where and when this tradition started. There are several stories that describe how the 7th Inning Stretch began, but none have been proved to be the official true story.

One story claims that in 1910, President William Howard Taft attended a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics. Around the 7th Inning, President Taft grew uncomfortable in the stadium's old wooden seats and got up to stretch his legs. Out of respect for the President, everybody in the stadium also stood up, and the 7th Inning Stretch was born.

Another story claims that the tradition started in 1882 at Manhattan College in New York. During a baseball game, a priest named Brother Jasper was in charge of making sure the students and fans behaved themselves. Around the 7th Inning, Brother Jasper noticed that the crowd was getting restless, so he had everybody stand up and unwind by stretching.

A third story claims that the tradition started in 1869 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team. One of the Red Stockings players wrote a letter to a friend describing how the fans would get up in the 7th inning, near the end of the game, and stretch after sitting on hard benches for a couple of hours.

So it looks like nobody is 100% sure how the tradition began. One thing is for certain, though. Next time you go to a game, you'll be singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and stretching your legs in the middle of the 7th inning.

Q: Why don't they call it batball instead of baseball? Jordan from Merritt Island, FL

A: Jordan, that is a very good question. But like many questions about baseball traditions, the answer remains unclear. Because baseball was started so long ago, many of the facts about its origins have become lost or forgotten over time. Many stories exist about the origin of baseball. Each of these stories probably contains some element of truth.

In my opinion, the game is called baseball because the bases and the ball are the most important parts of the game. In order to score a run, a player has to make it all the way around the bases. Players can't be tagged out while they are touching a base. The bases are more directly involved in the scoring of the game than the bats.

Q: What is the difference between a curveball and a slider? David from Jersey City, NJ

A: David, there are a couple of differences between a curveball and a slider. The main one being that a curveball typically moves from top to bottom and a slider moves from side to side. If you imagine the strike zone to look like a clock, a good curveball will start at the 12 and drop down to the 6. A slider will start at the 1 or the 2 and drop to the 7 or the 8. Also, a curveball is usually a little bit slower than a slider.

Both pitches are called breaking pitches and are meant to trick the hitter. It's important to note that young pitchers can hurt their arms throwing breaking pitches. Before throwing these pitches, young players should talk to their coaches, to make sure they are ready, and to avoid injury.

Q: Who has the lowest free-throw percentage of all time (pros)? Donald from Columbus, OH

A: Donald, the NBA doesn't keep individual records for lowest free-throw percentage. However, the league does keep several records for free-throw shooting futility. In 1967-68, the Philadelphia 76'ers set the team record for the lowest free-throw percentage in a season with 63.5% In 2000, Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers set a record for free-throws missed in a single game. He missed all 11 of his free-throws in the game; the most any player has missed without making a single one.

Q: What is your favorite sport? Brianna from Coldwater, MI A: Brianna, it's hard to choose one favorite sport. I love all of them. I enjoy watching football in the fall and the sound that hockey skates make on the ice. I like watching good basketball players swish jump shots and I love the way excited soccer players celebrate scoring goals. But if I had to pick just one sport, it would be baseball. I enjoy playing it and watching it. I love the long history of the game as well as the current players. There is nothing better than sitting in a stadium, on a hot summer day, watching your favorite team. If a game is action-packed, I'll enjoy it, no matter what the sport.

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