Baltimore Orioles: Presidential First Pitches

The Baltimore Orioles will open the season on March 26th at home against NY. The rest of the league opens that day as well, and we’ll see first pitch ceremonies across baseball that day. But as of right now, to my knowledge, there’ll be one guy specifically NOT throwing a first pitch: President Donald Trump.

This is one of my favorite repeat or annual columns that I write. I do a variation of it every year on President’s Day. There’s no sport in America which has the relationship with the White House that Major League Baseball has. And in large part, that’s due to baseball being America’s Pastime. It was our only sport of consequence for some time.

But it’s also due to the fact that in 1910, President William Howard Taft was invited to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day for the Washington Senators. And the tradition stuck. President Barack Obama commemorated the 100th anniversary of Presidential First Pitches in 2010 on Opening Day at Nationals Park.

Generally these Presidential First Pitches come on Opening Day or in the World Series. Obviously one of the most famous was in 2001 when President George W. Bush threw out the first ball in the World Series after 9/11 in New York. But there are plenty of other notable times a President has thrown out the first ball.

President Calvin Coolidge did the honors on numerous occasions. Ironically however “Silent Cal” wasn’t a huge baseball fan. Instead it was his wife who followed the sport, but he appreciated the opportunity to take her out to the ballgame every year. In 1940 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first pitch (on Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC) hit a Washington Post camera. Roosevelt was President for 12+ years, and he did the honors many times. He just had poor aim!

President Harry Truman, being ambidextrous, threw two balls in 1950 – one right and one left-handed. President John F. Kennedy also opened the 1962 season by throwing out the first ball at the new DC Stadium. Ironically, it would be renamed years later for the President’s slain brother, and is still known today as RFK Stadium.

President Richard M. Nixon, in the absence of baseball in Washington, took the tradition to the west coast in 1973 and did the honors in Anaheim. Finally in 1979, the tradition came to Baltimore. President Jimmy Carter threw out the first pitch in the 1979 World Series at Memorial Stadium. President Ronald Reagan came to town in 1984 for and did the honors, although not on Opening Day. President Reagan was also the first President to throw the pitch from the field. Previously Presidents would sit in the first row near the home dugout, and throw the ball to the catcher from there.

President George H.W. Bush came to Memorial Stadium in 1989 for Opening Day, and he returned later in his term with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. I remember that well, as they sat in a suite during the game and got to meet players and coaches from both the Orioles and Oakland A’s. I recall in the lead up to the game people were wondering if the Queen would eat a hot dog, requiring her to remove her white gloves. President Bush also came to Camden Yards for the inaugural first pitch on Opening Day in 1992.

The last President to do these honors in Baltimore was President Bill Clinton. He came to Camden Yards twice, most recently in 1996. However baseball returned to Washington in 2005, all but guaranteeing that future Presidents would most probably a throw out first pitches exclusively at Nationals Park. George W. Bush did so twice, and Barack Obama once.

Which brings us back to President Trump. I’m not naive, folks. I’m aware of the controversy surrounding this President. I have strong views on the situation, which I choose not to share in this column. But this is a fun, and non-partisan tradition. I wish it would continue.

Especially for a guy like Donald Trump, who apparently had a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies. It nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that the President should throw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington DC every year. Trump did attend a World Series game in DC last October, but didn’t throw a pitch. I call on the Washington Nationals organization, and the White House to make this happen. In closing I’ll say it again (and I always close this column in this manner): The President of the United States should throw out the first ball in Washington DC on Opening Day EVERY YEAR.

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