National Anthem Day In America

by | Special Interest | 0 comments

National Anthem Day in America is March 3rd, when we celebrate ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’s’ official designation as our nation’s anthem.  The song has a long and storied history beginning in the War of 1812 and only cementing its place in the American sports landscape over a hundred years later.


It’s a few minutes before the start of a sporting event anywhere in the United States.  Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer; in professional stadiums, college campuses and even high school gymnasiums.

Everyone stands up as a performer, organist or audio recording gets warmed up to play our national anthem.  It’s a time-honored tradition of our sporting lives that seems as natural as cheering for the home team.

March 3rd marks the 91st year since “The Star-Spangled Banner” formally became our nation’s chorus.  A special resolution drafted by congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1931 made it official, but the song’s legacy and significance began to grow well over a hundred years prior.


Original copy of what would become the Star-Spangled BannerFrancis Scott Key, a lawyer serving in Georgetown during the War of 1812, penned a poem describing the horrors of a bloody, but victorious, battle where the U.S. successfully fought back the Brits from overtaking Fort McHenry.  Originally entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” he vividly described witnessing the “rocket’s red glare” and “bombs bursting in air,” and ultimately, his immense pride that in the aftermath “our flag was still there.”

From that moment on, the lyrics of the anthem have become synonymous with battle, sacrifice, victory, freedom and national patriotism.

Over the course of time, the song gained prominence for its place at national events and holidays.  In 1889, the U.S. Navy began singing it while raising and lowering the flag and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson declared it the official anthem of all the country’s armed services.

But it was a fateful day in September of 1918, amidst the first game of the World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox, that an unheralded third baseman named Fred Thomas would forever cement the song’s legacy in our sports landscape.


The fall of 1918 was a somber one in the United States.  The country was 17 months into World War I and had suffered over 100,000 casualties by that September.  The economy was weak, the government announced additional draft mandates and even America’s pastime couldn’t lighten the mood of the nation.

In front of a sparse and tepid crowd, Babe Ruth was throwing a 1-0 shutout for the Red Sox leading into the 7th inning stretch of game 1.

As was common at such events, a military band was on hand to perform for patrons between innings.  What was uncommon was their choice of music as the leader called out for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Fred Thomas, a sailor on furlough from the Navy, stopped in his tracks while running out to his position, stood at military attention and saluted the flag throughout the duration of the song.  Others on the field and in the stands followed suit by placing their hands on their hearts and singing along, then cheered wildly with national pride upon its conclusion.

The New York Times described the scene in this way: “First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field.  It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded with thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day’s enthusiasm.”


As other ballclub owners witnessed the joy and sense of pride fans received from the song, they too began including it as part of their game festivities and the rest is history.

National anthem beiung performed at 1918 World SeriesIronically, as this world series sparked the beginning of this new tradition, it also notably marked the end of others.  The 1918 World Series would be the last games Babe Ruth would play for the Red Sox before he was infamously purchased by the New York Yankees.  It also proved to be the last championship Boston would win for 86 years, and it would take the Cubs another 98 before claiming the elusive title again.

Beginning with a battle in the War of 1812, to an unassuming patriotic ballplayer over a hundred years later, “The Star-Spangled Banner” continues to be played at sporting events around the country, forever representing and honoring the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave.”

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