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Buzby: Sports and Fourth of July work well together

Baseball, hot dogs and apple pie -- all-American traditions.

This Thursday we celebrate America's birthday.

There will be parades and picnics all over the country as we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from Great Britain.

Do you know why John Hancock signed his signature so large? (So the King of England could read it even without his spectacles.) Do you know that both the author and editor of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, coincidentally died on July 4? These are just generic trivia questions that you can impress your picnic-goers with this afternoon.

So how do we tie this holiday to sports? There are two traditions relating to our country's freedom that often occur during sporting events, but my guess is many people are not aware of their true origin.

Just about every sporting event begins with the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, America's national anthem. But do the players listening know why it's played?

In 1918, the United States was fighting in World War I. With American soldiers facing intense combat in France, baseball officials considered canceling the World Series. But when they learned how much the soldiers were looking forward to hearing the radio broadcast of the games, they reconsidered.

And to help boost soldier morale, as a patriotic gesture, baseball officials played the Star-Spangled Banner during the seventh-inning stretch. Everyone stood and sang along. Eventually, the Star-Spangled Banner became a tradition at all baseball games and before every other major sporting event as well, including many youth events.

A second tradition will occur tonight in just about every professional baseball park at all levels. Win or lose, the home team will host a spectacular fireworks show.

Do you know that the tradition of fireworks comes directly from Great Britain, the very country we fought against in the Revolutionary War to gain our freedom?

In Great Britain, it was common practice to shoot off fireworks to celebrate birthdays. So, it became a tradition to celebrate America's birthday by having bombs bursting in air and lighting up the sky each July 4th.

One of the greatest things to teach your kids about this holiday as they watch the fireworks is to be thankful that here in America, unlike other places around the globe, the bombs bursting in air tonight will be celebrated, not feared. And they'll end without any lives being lost.

The Fourth of July and sports -- two great American traditions.

Happy Independence Day.

Contact Jon Buzby at and follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.