The Baltimore Orioles are still in camp, and Donald Trump is in the White House. We knew the former would be true today, but the latter not so much at one point. However today being President’s Day, I wanted to continue a tradition I started while at Birds Watcher for this holiday.
The President throwing out the first pitch is a time-honored tradition in baseball – and thus in America. President William Howard Taft began the tradition in 1910, when he attended the Washington Senators’ Opening Day game and tossed out the first pitch. Since then, every President up to and including Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch on Opening Day at least once in Washington D.C. until the Senators moved away. A couple of highlights:
- 1923 – President Harding opened the Senators’ season two days after doing the same at Yankee Stadium in NY
- 1940 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first pitch at Griffith Stadium hit a Washington Post camera
- 1950 – President Harry Truman threw out two first pitches, one with each hand
- 1962 – President John F. Kennedy threw out the inaugural first pitch at the new D.C. Stadium, which would later be renamed in honor of his late brother
After Washington got a team back in the form of the Nationals in 2005, the tradition was revived. President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch for the Nationals’ first home opener in 2005, and again when they opened Nationals Park in 2008. Two years later in 2010, President Barack Obama threw out the first ball on Opening Day at Nationals Park.
During Washington’s hiatus from baseball, the “Presidential First Pitch Ceremony” would often shift to the closest big league team to the nation’s capitol: the Baltimore Orioles. President Jimmy Carter became the first President to do the honors at Memorial Stadium, although not on Opening Day; Carter threw out the first ball in the 1979 World Series. President Ronald Reagan opened the season by throwing out the first ball in Baltimore in 1984, and 1986. President George H.W. Bush followed suit in 1989 and 1992, the latter of those being the inaugural game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. President Bill Clinton was the last President to do the honors in Baltimore, in 1993 and 1996.
Incidentally, President Clinton and others have done the job at several ballparks nationwide. However he (President Clinton, that is) had an interesting philosophy on doing it: he threw approximately 100 warm-up pitches. Keep in mind, pitchers usually throw 100 pitches or so in a game (not counting warm-ups). So why would a crafty lefty like President Clinton put that type of stress on his arm just to look good for one ceremonial pitch? His theory was that regardless of where you were, half of the crowd is going to dislike you. So…why give the other half of the crowd a reason to boo also?!
Presidents Bush and Obama are the only two POTUS’ up to now to have the opportunity to do this deed in DC since baseball returned. With that said, this Baltimore Orioles’ writer thinks that President Trump should begin the tradition anew. While this isn’t a politically-partisan column under any circumstance, I do understand the controversy that surrounds this particular President…
…but this is a fun tradition. And quite frankly, a sports fanatic such as Donald J. Trump would probably eat up the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. Yes, there would be some folks in the stands booing. But as I said, this is a time-honored tradition. Presidents Bush and Obama both said that they didn’t feel it was fair to make people coming to the game deal with Presidential security and so forth (which is why their appearances were few and far between), and I do understand that.
However baseball is America’s pastime. It’s representative of summertime, the beach, hot dogs, etc…translated, good times. It’s the only sport that’s intertwined with our nation’s leadership like this. And my personal opinion is that Democrat or Republican, the President of the United States should throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in Washington D.C. every year.