I wish I could be writing about the Baltimore Orioles and their progress in spring training right now. But due to the lockout I can’t do that. I’ll say this; PLEASE come to an agreement soon. This is America’s Pastime of which we’re speaking. Baseball can’t afford this.
However it is President’s Day, and I pen a column of this nature every year. 2022 is no exception. Baseball has a unique relationship with the American Presidency, dating back to 1912. That’s the year that President William Howard Taft journeyed to Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. and threw out the first pitch on Washington Senators’ Opening Day.
Someone throws out a first pitch at nearly every game. Depending on the team, it’s usually someone affiliated with a big sponsor or something like that. But that all piggybacks on the tradition of the President of the United States throwing out the first ball on Opening Day. And most Presidents since Taft have done the honors. Opening Day used to be a must, but Presidents have also done the honors at the MLB All-Star game, and at the World Series.
President Ronald Reagan showed up at Wrigley Field a few times during regular season games and threw out first pitches. Once he did it twice – once with each arm. Most people of course remember President Reagan as an actor (prior to politics), but even before that he worked at a radio station in Iowa and broadcasted play-by-play of Cubs games. He’d read the action coming off the wire, and while sitting in the studio would relay it to listeners – who had no idea he was in a studio.
One story I always like to throw into this column is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt doing the honors in 1940 (in Washington) and having hit pitch hit a Washington Post camera before falling to the turf. I can’t tell you why I think that’s an entertaining tidbit, but I just do! Five years later in 1945, President Harry Truman became the first President to throw out a left-handed first pitch – this also in Washington, but in the World Series.
Baltimore has hosted a Presidential first pitch on occasion also. President Jimmy Carter came to Memorial Stadium and threw out the first ball in the 1979 World Series, marking Baltimore’s first Presidential first pitch. Memorial Stadium hosted President Reagan on Opening Day in 1984, but it’s worth noting that was a surprise visit. Fans at the game that day got a bit more than they were bargaining for!
Reagan would return to Memorial Stadium on Opening Day of 1986 to toss out the first ball, and in 1989 newly sworn-in President George H.W. Bush showed up (also for Opening Day). President Bush would return to Baltimore in 1992 to throw out the first ball on the first Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I remember the day well, and if I recall he was very complimentary of the new park. (As a side note, Vice-President Dan Quayle threw out the first ball in 1991 on the final Opening Day at Memorial Stadium.)
President Bill Clinton visited the Orioles a few times also. 1993, 1994, and 1996 were all years where he came to Baltimore and threw out a Presidential first pitch at Camden Yards. He’s the last sitting President to do the honors in Baltimore. However, then Vice-President and current President Joe Biden threw out the first pitch in 2009 in Baltimore.
Speaking of President Biden, I hope he’s reading this (hey, you never know!). I say this every year, but I think that the President of the United States should throw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington, D.C. every year. This regardless of party, political beliefs, or political climate. Opening Day in MLB is a celebration of the return of baseball, but also of everything that’s good and decent about America.
However this year that may not be possible – who knows when Opening Day will be? Heck, I’d settle for President Biden to step in and help break up the lockout! But perhaps if it persists he could put a special spin in the tradition. There are quite a few minor league teams in the DC area (many of them Orioles’ teams). Since the minors aren’t affected by the lockout and will start their seasons on time, why not do the honors at one of those parks?! That aside, I’ll say it again; the President of the United States should throw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington, D.C. every year.