Editor’s note: See the update at the bottom of this story for additional information.
It’s baseball playoffs, football season, and soon basketball will tip off. That means you can expect plenty of good and bad renditions of the National Anthem. But one recent baseball game delivered neither of those and something you might not expect at all: three verses of the Star-Spangled Banner — and it completely baffled the crowd.
During a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game, the Philadelphia Phillies triple-A affiliate, in late August, the folks over at Extra Mustard (a division of Sports Illustrated) decided to commission Broadway star Lena Hall to prank the crowd: instead of singing just the first verse of the famed song, she’d belt out three and see how they crowd reacted.
The result? Well, all sorts of confused and amazing. But throughout, everyone worked to maintain respect:
There were plenty more reactions in the video — and the best part might be around the 2:29 mark when, despite a third verse, a group of men quickly take their hats off yet again to show respect:
Some of you have brought attention to the video and Hall’s failure to sing the fourth verse, even suggesting that verse may have been a little too religious and thus Hall and the Extra Mustard people shied away. Well, we received an explanation from the video’s producer, and he assures that’s not the case.
First, the fourth verse:
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Now, here’s the explanation from Neil Janowitz, senior editor over at Extra Mustard who wrote that website’s original story and helped produce the video [emphasis added]:
When we arranged the performance with the IronPigs, they told us they could clear about 4 1/2 minutes for it. Pitchers have pre-game routines, the TV networks are expecting a certain schedule, etc, so we couldn’t push the first pitch too far back. Lena and I explored the idea of doing all four verses in the time allotted, but she would have had to do them so fast that it might have compromised the performance. (And as it turned out, the actual performance of just the three verses ended up being nearly five minutes long.) The omission had nothing to do with the content of the verse itself.
As someone who has worked in sports television and as an umpire, I can tell you time constraints are very real. Frankly, I was surprised Hall was even allowed the time for three verses.