Originally written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, the National Anthem’s wartime roots are unmistakable – but it took over 100 years for “The Star-Spangled Banner” to become a part of the game day ritual. History records various sporting events in which “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played dating from the mid-1800s. But it wasn’t until the first game of the World Series in 1918 that the anthem and sporting event game day tradition began. The U.S had entered into World War I 17 months earlier and the public mood at home was sullen and anxious. The government began drafting major league baseball players for military service. During the seventh inning stretch of Game 1 of the World Series, the military band on hand struck the first notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, who was playing in the Series while on furlough from the Navy, immediately faced the flag and snapped to attention with a military salute. The other players on the field followed suit, in “civilian” fashion (stood and put their right hands over their hearts). The crowd, already standing, joined in a spontaneous sing-along. When the Series moved to Boston for Game 4, the Red Sox followed the Cubs’ lead, but moved the playing of the Anthem to the pregame festivities. Over the next decade, all professional leagues adopted the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” grew into the game day tradition we know today.
During the rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” it was customary for civilians and non-uniformed military to salute the flag with their right hand placed over their heart, while active and retired military rendered a hand salute. However, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow military to render the hand salute when not in uniform. Today, all active and retired military should feel empowered to salute the flag during the anthem to show their pride for their service to our country.