Baseball is long. Games that go nine innings and breeze past three and a half hours, seasons that fill 162 games over about six months out of the year, and a history that goes back almost 200 years to before the Civil War––there’s no denying that baseball is an old, long, and slow game. On the one hand its pace and disregard for modern attention spans is part of what makes it such a beautiful, timeless, and essential element of American culture. On the other hand, sometimes the game just needs a break. And what has always separated baseball from say, the opera or some other high brow form of entertainment, is that for all of its centuries old history and traditions, baseball has never taken itself so seriously that it won’t enjoy a little mid-game intermission to let a bunch of guys in oversized sausage suits race each other across the outfield.

Mascot races are just one way baseball teams have come up with ways to liven up the experience of live games.

While the tradition of the seventh inning stretch dates back to around the 1870s, it wasn’t until the 1970s when baseball really began to add some life to the breaks in the game. In Chicago, the White Sox’ (and later the Cubs’) eccentric play by play man Harry Caray began regularly singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the home crowd. While a broadcaster singing an old song during a break might not have typically been so groundbreaking, Caray had such a singular presence, like Ol’ Dirty Bastard inhabiting the body of Rodney Dangerfield, that these seventh inning performances quickly became iconic and the tradition of the fans singing along to the song soon spread throughout the league.

Charles O. Finley, Owner of the A's came up with all sorts of ideas and gimmicks to stand out from the crowd including flourescent orange colored balls.

Around that same time in Oakland, insurance-salesman-turned-A’s-owner Charlie Finley sought to upend the stuffy traditionalists of baseball by trying out all kinds of experimental gimmicks, from brightly colored uniforms and high-vis orange baseballs, to paying his players bonuses to grow extravagant mustaches, to devising a mechanical rabbit that would deliver new balls from behind home plate. While many of Finley’s more avant-garde ideas didn’t last long, the on-field success and style of his 1970s A’s injected much-needed irreverence and flavor into the game.

The Freeze making a fool of yet another unsuspecting fan as Braves players enjoy the spectacle.

Today, in-game entertainment ranges from the Yankees’ serious renditions of “God Bless America” to the Brewers’ Sausage Race to Atlanta’s now-famous “Beat the Freeze,” in which a semi-anonymous former college sprinter races head to head against a random fan who is given a sizable head start. To see a stadium absolutely rapt by an ordinary person in cargo shorts and an ill-fitting jersey stumbling at full speed in pure desperation as a man in an electric blue bodysuit and matching ski goggles inevitably hunts them down, is to be reminded that while baseball may be as steeped in history and tradition as anything else in American culture, part of that tradition is that it always finds time to be wacky and fun.