The Baltimore Orioles and every other team are currently in Spring Training. Games start next weekend. But the rest of the country takes today off in honor of President’s Day.
I write this column every year. One of my passions in life is civics. And the American Presidency is an institution that has a relationship with Major League Baseball unlike any other sport.
President William Howard Taft unknowingly began an important tradition in 1910; he went to Griffith Stadium in Washington DC and threw out the first pitch at the Washington Senators’ game on Opening Day. It wasn’t something that was covered in great fanfare, but it’s noteworthy from a historical perspective. Since then Presidents have been an indelible part of the landscape of the game of baseball. And of sports.
President Taft and nearly every one of his predecessors threw out first pitches. Usually in DC. Also it happened from time to time in the World Series. And even in the All-Star Game. At times, the Vice-President would stand in for the President on Opening Day – this actually happened for the first time in 1912, when Vice-President James Sherman filled in for President Taft. Other “Veep’s” to do the honors over the years were Nixon, Humphrey, Agnew, Bush, Quayle, Gore, Cheney, and Biden.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of course was a quadriplegic – which for the most part was unbeknownst to the general public. (On a side note, that’s most definitely NOT something that could be concealed today.) Luckily for FDR however, back then the President threw the first pitch from the stands. In 1940 at Griffith Stadium his pitch hit a Washington Post camera. Five years later President Harry Truman did the honors at the World Series (in DC), becoming the first President to throw the first pitch as a southpaw.
In 1958 President Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first to throw out a first pitch in Baltimore. He did so at the All-Star game, which that year was held at Memorial Stadium. President Jimmy Carter returned the Presidency to Memorial Stadium in 1979 for the World Series. Presidents Reagan, Bush (41), and Clinton would also visit Baltimore to do these honors, as did Vice-President Dan Quayle. President Lyndon B. Johnson also set a still-standing Presidential record on 1964 in Washington DC. He ate the most hot dogs (4) of any President ever on Opening Day.
Numerous former Presidents have also thrown out first pitches. However President Barrack Obama was the last sitting President to appear in person – this in 2010, at Nationals Park. In commemoration of 100 years since President Taft began the tradition.
And with that said, yes this is an Orioles column. But I would submit that President Biden might consider rekindling the tradition this April at Nationals Park. America’s pastime is baseball. That will always be the case. And again, baseball has a unique relationship with the White House. And I think that the President of the United States should throw out the first ball on Opening Day every year in Washington DC.