Peanuts and Cracker Jack #8: The Best and Worst of Baseball Traditions


Courtesy of Peter Philpott

I eat a cloud of cotton candy at my first ever baseball game with my sister, Carly (left). It was a 2011 Rockies game, and being in that electric stadium, watching my favorite team play, is the reason I still enjoy live games to this day. And the pillowy dessert is just the type of ritual that hooks fans on baseball like nothing else. Whether it’s a hot dog or a walk-off win, baseball secures a set of customs that make the game so special.

Peter Philpott, Assistant News Editor

When a sport has origins 200 years ago, it picks up quite a few traditions along the way. Some are treasured, classic rituals that should never and will never change. But some don’t deserve a future, and baseball would be better without them. Here are the best and the worst of baseball traditions.

Best: First Pitch

Nothing beats triumphing over traffic and getting to a ball game early enough to see the first pitch. Sometimes they bring in some washed-up actor or dumb influencer, but a lot of the time, the first pitch is thrown by a locally-related celebrity with a connection to the city. And the majority of first pitches are thrown into the dirt, which is hilarious to watch. Look on YouTube, search up “First Pitch Fails,” and prepare for pure entertainment.

Worst: Overuse of pine tar

Pine tar can be useful, and many players use it to grip bats better for an easier trip to the plate. Some, however, use it as an embellishment. I have got to say it: pine tar users have gone too far. Players smear it on their jerseys ruining perfect pinstripes with grimy goo. As a former rec league player and a teammate of many kids influenced by major leaguers, I have had personal experience with this. I go to pick up my beloved hand-me-down Rawlings bat and find its rubber grip has been contaminated with disgusting tar. It’s gotten on all my equipment, including my clothes. The only things jerseys should be dirty with are grass stains and dirt swipes.

Best: Walkup songs

While I’m not the greatest country music fan (and the genre makes up the majority of walk up songs), I still appreciate the tradition. It’s fun to have a melody that you associate with your favorite player, especially when that player has a memorable season. Sometimes, players will keep an iconic walk up song for years, and they gain fan appreciation for it. The Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon has walked towards home plate to the tune of “Your Love” by The Outfield since anyone can remember, and the song always cuts off at the perfect moment so Rockies fans can scream the final word of the snippet, “toniiiiight!”

Worst: Flyovers

Who said baseball had to be patriotic? There’s absolutely no reason to waste fuel and time for a couple F-15s to whiz past, just to be in view for two seconds. The National Anthem is enough, and military jets are unnecessary to kick off a ball game. This is yet another tradition that appears in other sports, and it’s time to stop.

Best: Walk Off Celebrations

Different teams have adaptations of the walk-off celebration, but all involve a crazed mob of players gathered at home plate as the game’s hero walks in, completes the match, and scores the winning run. It’s incredibly entertaining to see spilled gallons of gatorade, scattered Dubble Bubble gumballs showering over the players, ripped jerseys, and jubilant faces. It’s slightly less entertaining when it’s your team losing, but the point still stands.

Worst: The Wave

Baseball fans have spirit and cheer…until their team starts to lose. Then, they start to leave the stadium, or worse, start the wave. If you get particularly unlucky, some frat guy with a Coors beer spilling out of his hand will stand up and try to get people to start it (it’s always the same type of person). The wave is too loud and distracting to fans who just want to watch the game, and worst, it shows your home team that you’ve completely given up.

Best: Mascot Race

In Milwaukee, it’s the sausage race. In Washington, it’s the presidents’ race. In Colorado, it’s the Comfort Dental Tooth Trot (or it was until the ill-fated event was canceled). There’s an innate circuit in our brains that make us irrationally entertained when large foam mascots hurtle and stumble around the warning track. Longtime baseball fans will tell me that the new races could never be as good as the classics. But for me, toothpaste vs. toothbrush is always just as entertaining as a chorizo vs. brat.

Worst: Tomahawk Chop

It’s difficult to believe how the old racist traditions of derogating Native Americans still exist so commonly in sports. This spans through college mascots to the Kansas City Chiefs to baseball’s Atlanta Braves, but the most accepted tradition that simply needs to go is the tomahawk chop. Tens of thousands of fans making a chopping motion with their hands while screaming a fake battle cry in unison. Many young children don’t even understand it’s wrong; their adult role models are chopping along beside them. It exists in all sports and I am still in disbelief that only few fans of these teams (and the teams themselves) realize how problematic it is.

Best: Baseball Snacks

Hot take: baseball has the most iconic snacks of any sport. Take the ordinary hot dog, which has been served in baseball parks since anyone can remember. How about cotton candy, the enchanting pillowy floss. The very title of this column is a lyric from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and the lyric is influenced by the roasted peanuts that are only delicious at a game and the cracker jacks which shaped my very childhood. Foods like the hot dog have been rooted in local baseball traditions too, with the Dodger Dog in Los Angeles and the Stadium Brat in Milwaukee.

Worst: The Designated Hitter

There are two levels to letting pitchers hit that make the game amazing. The first is entertainment. Nothing is better than watching a pitcher either hopelessly strike out or slam an unexpected home run. The second is strategy. Gone are the days of double switches and hitter skipping. Part of baseball is the two sidedness – hitting and fielding. Pitchers completely miss out on part of that, and the fact that it has spread to the National League is a travesty.

Best: Seventh Inning Stretch

Every seventh inning stretch will at least include one tradition: the loud chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Most MLB teams also have their own recurring song that plays after the classic ballgame tune. The Rockies have “Hey Baby,” a song which I would probably find quite annoying, but it has sentimental value because of the beloved stretch. All baseball fans can look forward to the gap of the seventh inning as a time to sing your heart out, buy a bratwurst, or just prepare for those final, tense innings.

It’s traditions like these that make the game so enjoyable. They add charm to a game that isn’t always so amusing to watch. Customs like these compel fans to have such an undying love for the game, and for me, that love sparked a column that is so incredible to write. I’m able to write about something immensely important to me, a privilege that anyone would be lucky to have.

I thank you, my niche group of readers, for letting me speak passionately about baseball every once in a while and making my freshman year so much better. Peanuts and Cracker Jack will return.