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Did you know that the Manhattan Jaspers may have invented the 7th-inning stretch?

Courtesy Manhattan College

When the Manhattan Jaspers take on the Hampton Pirates in the NCAA play-in game on Tuesday, the team will be looking to win, reach the tournament proper, and then make history by upsetting the No.1-seeded, undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. 

Turns out, the Jaspers may already be responsible for a piece of baseball history: The seventh-inning stretch.

While many believe that it was portly President William Howard Taft's need to stretch his legs during ballgames that led to the now-standard practice of spectators standing up, it may actually be attributed to Brother Jasper of Manhattan College sometime in the 1880s. 

Jasper, who was the Prefect of Discipline and the team's coach -- after introducing the sport to the school -- is reported to have noticed the student fans looking restless in the stands. Instead of berating them or, I dunno, spraying them with a hose (did they have hoses back then?), Jasper told the group to stand up and stretch their legs. Since the college played their games at the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants, it's believed that this practice soon traveled over to the Majors. Like a viral cat meme. 

The time frame also makes sense. As the Dickson Baseball Library notes, the first reported usage of the stretch came in a July 22, 1883 article in "The Sporting Life," nearly two decades before the Taft story. That one read: 

"In most of the large cities, there is a peculiar practice in vogue at base ball [sic] games. At the end of every few innings, some tired spectator, who has been wrestling with the hard side of a rough board seat, gets up and yells 'Stretch!' A second after, the entire crowd will be going through all the movements of a stretch." 

Is that really all that different than the guy three rows down from you jumping up and trying to get a wave going every three batters?