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Why Do We Stretch During the Seventh Inning?

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When you consider that the designated time for baseball spectators to take a break, sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" off-key, and make one last trip to the adult beverage stand has always been in the middle of the seventh inning—two full innings past the halfway point of the game—one would think that the seventh-inning stretch would have an official, agreed-upon origin story. But one would be wrong.

The seventh-inning stretch was initially thought to be the second historic impact that President William Howard Taft had on the game of baseball on April 14, 1910. On that day at Griffith Stadium, the Washington Senators played Opening Day host to the Philadelphia Athletics. Supposedly, umpire Billy Evans extemporaneously handed Taft the baseball after the managers had been introduced and asked the Chief Executive to throw it over home plate; other sources say it was Senators manager Jimmy McAleer's idea. Either way, when Taft did as he was told, he became the first President of the United States to throw out a first pitch. As the legend goes, in between the top and bottom halves of the seventh inning, the 6-foot 2-inch, 300 pound Taft's lack of comfort sitting in his small wooden chair was too much to bear. The POTUS rose to stretch his legs. Everyone else in Griffith Stadium, not wanting to seem disrespectful, did the same.

Unfortunately for Taft, there is an origin story that predates his moment by a couple of decades. Brother Jasper Brennan, the namesake of the Manhattan College Jaspers, was responsible for bringing the then-unknown sport of baseball to the school in the early 1880s. As the manager and the Prefect of Discipline, Brother Jasper had to keep his eye and attention on both the game and the students in the stands. He would always tell the students beforehand that they were not to get up or move until the game was over, when they were ready to return for the evening meal. The students, however, seemed particularly restless one "hot, sticky" day in June 1882. Before the bottom of the seventh against the semi-pro team The Metropolitans, Brother Jasper called time-out and told the students to stand up and stretch for a couple of minutes, alleviating their transparent troubles. It quickly became a tradition at the college's home games, and when the New York Giants franchise came by for a game, they liked what they saw, and brought the practice of a seventh inning stretch to the big leagues.

That would be all well and good, but the story of Harry Wright has to be considered as well. Wright was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1953 by the Veterans Committee, mostly for his work organizing, managing and playing center field for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (later the Reds), baseball's first openly all-professional team. Back then, financial compensation for players' efforts was looked at with suspicion, the theory being that if cash was involved, the game would turn corrupt. Wright was known though to be on the straight and narrow, once reversing a bad call by an umpire even though the initial ruling benefitted his own team. Despite the amazing public display of morality, Wright is best known—if at all—for simply writing a letter to a friend. In 1869, Wright wrote Cincinnati resident Howard Ferris a letter that contained the first reference to anything resembling the seventh-inning stretch. "The Spectators all rise between halves of the seventh, extend their arms and legs and sometimes walk about. They enjoy the relief afforded by relaxation from a long posture upon the benches," Wright wrote. The original source of the letter seems to have come from the April 1982 edition of Cincinnati Magazine in their "Nothing But The Facts" section.

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Before Bigfoot and Yeti, There Was the Legendary Wampahoofus of Vermont
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Mt. Mansfield, Vermont
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Long before Bigfoot and Yeti became well-known in Western popular culture, another legendary creature was said to roam the woods of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Quite possibly a distant cousin of the rackabore, a pig-like creature, and almost certainly a near-relative of the whangdoodle, which has no defined character, the wampahoofus was a large mammal that evolved with legs longer on one side than on the other. The result was either a left-leaning or right-leaning beast that could move rapidly around mountains and hillsides—but only in one direction, clockwise or counterclockwise. (By some accounts, the males always went clockwise, and the females counter-clockwise.) If, by some chance, it reversed course and ended up on the wrong side of a hill on the short side of its body, it could tumble down the slope to its death.

Although details vary, the wampahoofus (also called the gyascutus or gouger) was said to resemble a mix between a deer and wild boar. While the Vermont varieties had fur, a version with scales is also said to have existed elsewhere. Its color varied from a dark green to an almost glowing orange. Some were three-toed, others had five. There’s even mention of a cloven-hoofed wampahoofus, and one that grew a whistle at the end of its tail.

Males and females usually ignored each other, except during courtship and mating. When that period ended, they’d wander around the mountains, grazing on the vegetation and enjoying the sights below. Yet their herbivore lifestyle was not without its threats.

Although there are few reports of them being hunted, the wampahoofus was always on guard. Their unique limb structure only enabled them to move in certain areas—they never entered the valleys or climbed beyond a certain elevation. Only the females sometimes ventured higher than they should, and then only to nurse their calves. In a piece for Nature Compass, a publication from the Green Mountain Club, writer Maeve Kim said her dad’s great-grandfather once came across five of these “ungainly cows [wampahoofuses], each caring for one nursing calf," and that it was “quite a sight.”

The origins of the wampahoofus are a source of spirited debate. References to similar creatures can be found in records dating back hundreds of years, and not just in America. Sir Thomas Browne, for example, wrote in the 17th century that British Badgers or “Brocks” had legs of varied sizes. “That a Brock or Badger hath the legs on one side shorter then [sic] of the other, though an opinion perhaps not very ancient, is yet very general; received not only by Theorists and unexperienced believers, but assented unto by most who have the opportunity to behold and hunt them daily," he recorded.

However, most agree that this particular hybrid originated in the 1800s before the Civil War, and while Vermont seems the likely “birthplace,” there’s also speculation it was first spotted in northern Maine. Experts (a term used lightly) believe the wampahoofus came to life in the lumber camps of the northern woods.

Back then, logging was the largest and most profitable industry in Vermont and much of New England. Before railways and working roads, logs traveled down lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Lumberjacks spent months deep in the woods cutting trees and sending them off for processing. At night, around the blazing campfires, these hard-working men killed time sharing far-fetched stories and crafting all sorts of mythical and legendary creatures. Their vivid imaginations may well have sparked the tales of the wampahoofus and related variations elsewhere.

In Fearsome Critters, one of many collections of lumberjack folklore, author Henry Tyron described the migration of the wampahoofus, which he referred to as gougers, from east to west. “Normal Gougers must obviously, travel around the hillside, and in making their daily rounds for food they wear the characteristic, partly gouged-out paths so familiar to woodsmen. These paths were once very common in New England, but today they are thought to be most frequently seen in the partly forested regions of the West,” he wrote. One source told him that the gouger population had grown “too thick” in New England, and “There warn’t enough food to go around and somebody just had to move out.”

Other accounts claim that a pair of entrepreneurial New Englanders brought a wampahoofus (here called a gyascutus) south on a circus-style traveling show, although all that the eager crowd ever witnessed was a set of furry feet peeking from below an elaborate curtain. The showman would poke at the drape, causing the creature to wail and scream. Amidst the chaos, an alarm went off and the creature would escape unseen. A Midwestern newspaper warned residents of this “formidable animal" on the loose, stating that “there is no knowing the amount of mischief he may occasion while roaming at large and disturbing the cogitations of those quiet people who know nothing about him.” Yet, somehow, the Yankees always recaptured the devious beast and had it ready for the next show a few towns away.

Fact or fiction, evolution didn’t work out well for the wampahoofus. Although a left-leaning wampahoofus could mate with a right-leaning one, the result was a severely deformed offspring with mismatched legs—a poor hybrid that could not move and often perished soon after birth. As time passed, both the left-leaning and right-leaning wampahoofus’s legs became shorter and shorter. Eventually, mating became impossible and the species died out.

Today, the last traces of this elusive creature can be seen along Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, where the Wampahoofus Trail intersects the journey to the summit. (The path was reportedly named by a professor who thought a nearby rock formation looked like the legendary creature.) These days, hikers may giggle at the trail's name, and some might snap a picture—but few know the woods are a place where a strange, wobbling creature once roamed.

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There’s a $1 Million Bounty on Bigfoot
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If you’re a Pennsylvania resident with evidence of giant ape-men trespassing in your backyard, Tom Biscardi wants to hear from you. The self-described “Godfather of Bigfoot” and his team of trackers are offering a $1 million bounty for "information leading to the capture or delivery of a bona fide Bigfoot," the Associated Press reports.

Biscardi has been searching for Bigfoot for 50 years. He was inspired to start the lifelong quest in 1967 after watching the Patterson-Gimlin film, a 59-second clip of what appears to be a large, furry creature striding around Bluff Creek in California.

In the time since, Biscardi has produced Bigfoot documentaries, launched a Bigfoot-hunting podcast, and founded Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., an organization dedicated to locating the legendary creature. Now he’s calling on the public to share any leads they may have on the cryptid’s whereabouts.

The hefty reward means the Searching for Bigfoot team is investigating up to 30 tips a day, most of which end up going nowhere. Most recently, Biscardi and his team, which includes his son T.J. and his grandson Tommy, were lured to the woods of Crawford County, Pennsylvania in search of hard evidence. They found one eroded heel print and sticks in unnatural arrangements, but Sasquatch himself was a no-show. "I want a creature," T.J. Biscardi told AP. "I'm done with pictures, done with prints, done with hair samples, done with fecal matter."

Even if they are able to capture a specimen of an animal most scientists agree doesn’t exist, convincing the public of its authenticity will be a challenge. Tom Biscardi has been involved with a few hoaxes in his career, including the discovery of a frozen Bigfoot “body” that turned out to be a rubber suit. Then there’s the legal complications involved with hunting a Bigfoot: Shooting the hypothetical beast for sport is against the law in some states, so Pennsylvania citizens might want to check with their wildlife department before setting off to claim the $1 million trophy.

[h/t WPXI]

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