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Most teams scaled back, and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter sees nothing wrong with that. Failing to play the song doesn't diminish the memory.
"I think it's OK to move forward," Hunter said. "Most ballparks do not play `God Bless America' every game. But you'll never forget that day, the people who fell, the people who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan since then."
The Mets were one of the teams that cut back on the song, letting fans once again enjoy the sweet nostalgia of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" with its peanuts and Cracker Jack.
"We just felt that doing it on Sundays, holidays and special dates and occasions was the proper balance," Howard said. The Mets still honor a U.S. troop every game through an organization called Welcome Back Veterans, which team owner Fred Wilpon helped found.
Owned by the born-on-the-Fourth-of-July patriot George Steinbrenner, the Yankees continued to play the song every game. Crowd participation has varied since, but there are still stirring singalongs occasionally, often on July 4, Sept. 11 or during the playoffs.
"I think people appreciate it and enjoy it," Yankees president Randy Levine.
Perhaps not everyone.
Shortly after they began playing "God Bless America" at every game, the Yankees instituted a policy that prevented fans from leaving their seats. The team used chains held by workers to block the aisles and impede movement -- a practice that was stopped after a fan was ejected in 2008 and sued the team.
Around the big leagues, there have been grumblings that the Yankees play the song to put the opposing pitcher at a disadvantage because the break is so long. That was especially the case during playoff games when tenor Ronan Tynan would sing his nearly 2 1/2 minute version, including a little-used stanza that includes the line "as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer."
Tynan chose to give the song a full airing to honor Berlin, the songwriter. He also would get chills hearing his thousands of backup singers joining in, sustaining notes a little longer to keep the moment going.
During the 2003 playoffs, the Minnesota Twins didn't appreciate his rendition when they came to New York -- and it had nothing to do with his voice. Manager Ron Gardenhire "went nuts because he said I caused a frozen shoulder for the pitcher for the length and duration of the song I had sung," Tynan recalled.
Without naming a club, Valentine said "some places where they do it all the time, seems they were doing it for all the wrong reasons. But possibly not. If they're doing it for the right reason I think it could be played twice a day."
The Yankees ignore any criticism about the song. They plan to play "God Bless America" during every seventh-inning stretch for as long as there are Yankees.
"That is never going to change," Levine said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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