Today, there are a vast number of traditions at sporting events. Often times we watch them or even take part in them and enjoy being part of something with so much history. However, we don't always think about when, where or how they began.
1. Homecoming Games
The tradition of welcoming back alumni to their former stomping grounds has been commonplace at schools across the United States for many years. Celebratory activities usually include things like a parade, a dance and the crowning of a Homecoming Queen. Along the way, an added tradition of playing a 'big game', usually (but not always) a football game, sprung up.
Many people have credited the origin of this tradition to the University of Missouri. In 1911, Missouri's Athletic Director Chester Brewer extended an invitation for all alumni to 'come home' for the annual football game with their biggest rival, the University of Kansas. Evidence suggests, however, that at least four other schools had already held similar events - Northern Illinois State Normal School (now Northern Illinois University) in 1903, Southwestern University and Baylor University in 1909 and the University of Illinois (now the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) in 1910. While the Missouri-Kansas game may not have been the first 'Homecoming Game', it does seem to be the one that started the wide-spread practice of today.
2. Post-Playoff Series Handshake
Ice hockey players are well-known for their tendency of aggressive behavior towards the opposing team. However, following a hard-fought NHL playoff series, win or lose, both teams are expected to form lines in the middle of the ice and respectfully shake the hand of each member of the opposition. Sadly, there have been instances when it wasn't done so respectfully. It seems that this tradition began long before the creation of the NHL.
Hod Stuart had been a star player for the Montreal Wanderers of the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. Not long after helping the Wanderers win the Stanley Cup in 1907, he was killed in a diving accident. Early the next year, the ECAHA hosted the Hod Stuart Memorial Game, an event to raise money for Stuart's widow and children. The game featured the Wanderers against a team made up of star players from other ECAHA teams who had been selected by fans. Following a victory by the Wanderers, the teams shook hands with each other, likely due to the solemnity of the situation.
3. All-Star Games
This tradition also seems to have begun with the Hod Stuart Memorial Game. A similar event was held in 1911 in baseball. Following the death of their popular pitcher Addie Joss due to tuberculous meningitis, the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians) of the American League hosted the Addie Joss Benefit Game. The goal was to raise money to aid the Joss family. Star players from each of the other AL teams invited to play together as the visiting team.
Major League Baseball held its first official All-Star Game in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago as part of the 1933 World's Fair. The plan had been for it to be a one-time event. However, it was such a success that it would become a permanent fixture.
In 1934, the NHL held the Ace Bailey Benefit Game. Proceeds from the game went to former Toronto Maple Leafs player Ace Bailey, whose career had ended the previous year following a near-fatal injury sustained during a game against the Boston Bruins. The game featured the Maple Leafs against a team of stars from the other NHL teams. Before the game, Bailey expressed hopes that similar events would be held annually to benefit injured players.
Two additional memorial games would be held - one for Howie Morenz in 1937 and one for Babe Siebert in 1939, both had been member of the Montreal Canadiens. Eventually, the NHL began holding a regular All-Star Game, beginning in 1947. Various other leagues would eventually follow.
4. Ceremonial First Pitch
The first instance of a guest of honor throwing out a pitch before the start of a baseball game was in 1908 by Japanese Prime Minister Okuma Shigenobu at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya.
The tradition began in America with U.S. President William Howard Taft prior to the first Washington Nationals (later the Minnesota Twins) game of the season in 1910. He would return to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day the next year as well. Every U.S. President since Taft has thrown out the first pitch before a Major League Baseball game at least once, and the honor has been extended to non-Presidents as well.
Originally, the guest would throw the ball from the seats to the pitcher or catcher of the home team. This changed in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan threw the ball while on the field during a surprise appearance before the first Baltimore Orioles game of the season. Now, the general practice is for the guest to stand on or in front of the pitcher's mound and make the pitch to representative of the home team standing or squatting at home plate.
5. Indianapolis 500 Winner Drinking Milk
After winning the race for a second time in 1933, Louis Mayer drank a glass of buttermilk. He would win again in 1936 and again wanted buttermilk. This time, however, it came in a bottle instead of a glass. After Mayer was photographed with the bottle while celebrating his third win, a near-by dairy company saw an opportunity and began offering bottles of milk to the winners in the years following. They would be given a choice of whole milk, 2% or skim milk.
The 1993 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, an owner of an orange grove, sparked controversy when he drank from a bottle of orange juice instead of milk in front of the cameras, hoping to promote the citrus industry. Negative fan reaction triggered an apology from Fittipaldi.
6. Mascot Races
In the early 1990s, the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball began showing computerized races on the scoreboard between three sausages - a bratwurst, a Polish sausage and an Italian sausage - prior to the bottom of the 6th inning. During the 1993 season, there began to be occasional live races between contestants dressed up as the sausages. It would become a full-time tradition and the original three would be joined by a hot dog wiener and later a chorizo.
The popularity of the sausage races inspired several other MLB teams to create their own versions with their own characters. It would also spread to minor league teams. Among them being the Stockton Ports, who have held races between three different kinds of asparagus.
7. Lambeau Leap
The tradition of a member of the National Football League's Green Bay Packers leaping into the crowd after scoring a touchdown began with LeRoy Butler in 1993. Butler had scored a defensive touchdown against the Raiders. Popularized by Robert Brooks, it became a staple at Packers home games. At times, members of visiting teams have made generally unsuccessful attempts at imitation. Under the NFL's current celebration rules, the Lambeau Leap would have been banned, but the tradition was grandfathered in.