Inning, Innings, and the Seventh-Inning Stretch

By Maeve Maddox

In the games of baseball and cricket, opposing teams take turns batting a ball.

A baseball game is divided into nine innings during which each team has a turn at bat. Each half of an inning ends with the third out. (An out occurs when a player strikes out or is tagged between bases.)

I’ll let Merriam-Webster explain the cricket term innings:

innings (noun): plural but singular or plural in construction :  a division of a cricket match in which one side continues batting until ten players are retired or the side declares; also : the time a player stays as a batsman until he is out, until ten teammates are out, or until his side declares.

Both terms have given rise to figurative expressions.

In reference to cricket, the term “to have one’s innings” can mean simply, “to have one’s turn at something.” Spoken of someone who dies at an advanced age, “to have a good innings,” means, “to have a long and successful life.” Here are some examples of the figurative use of innings:

The men had their innings in a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, performed as a staged reading in the style designed by Charles Laughton in 1952.

Berry told the Radio Times: “I have no desire to be a centenarian. I think 90 is a great time. You’ve had a good innings.”

From baseball comes the expression “the seventh-inning stretch.”

The ritual of the seventh-inning stretch is described in a letter dated 1869:

The spectators all arise between halves of the seventh inning, extend their legs and arms and sometimes walk about. In so doing they enjoy the relief afforded by relaxation from a long posture upon hard benches.

Chicago Cubs fans have been singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch since 1982. It’s often referred to as “the seventh-inning song.”

In researching this post, I discovered that some baseball fans are a bit confused about what to call this traditional interlude:

Incorrect: The seventh ending stretch came and to our surprise an announcement was being made over the loud speakers and a message appeared on the scoreboard.
Correct : The seventh-inning stretch came and to our surprise an announcement was being made over the loud speakers and a message appeared on the scoreboard.

Incorrect: In typical fashion, the third quarter seemed like a seventh ending stretch. Bear and I both took several catnaps due to the lackluster performance of both teams.
Correct : In typical fashion, the third quarter seemed like a seventh-inning stretch. Bear and I both took several catnaps due to the lackluster performance of both teams.

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3 Responses to “Inning, Innings, and the Seventh-Inning Stretch”

  • Roberta B.

    [For baseball] “An out occurs when a player strikes out or is tagged between bases”……or hits a ball that is caught by the opposing team before it [the ball] touches the ground. (This last event is the most common way an out occurs.)

  • Roberta B.

    …….or [another common type of “out”] the hit ball reaches first base (usually thrown to the first baseman by another player) before the hitter reaches first base [but this scenario applies only to first base].

  • Mister Furkles

    Roberta’s description of being forced out at first applies to other bases if the runner is forced. A base-runner is forced to the next base when the ball is hit in fair territory without being caught on the fly and the bases ‘behind’ the runner are also occupied. Which means having to explain the bases and what is fair territory. There seems to be no end of this complexity in baseball or American football for that matter. For example search the ‘dropped third strike rule’ or the ‘infield fly rule’.

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