mlboffseason:

Presidential First Pitches, Part I: Taft - JFK

On April 14, 1910, President William Howard Taft threw out the first pitch at Boundary Field as the Washington Senators faced off against eventual World Series champs, the Philadelphia Athletics. Walter Johnson outdueled the pride of Gettysburg College, Eddie Plank, 3-0. Thus began a somewhat erratic tradition of the President of the United States opening the major league baseball season. So how did things turn out? This week we look at the first 9 POTUSes and their roles as harbingers of luck - good or bad.

Note: From 1910 through 1963 all the games involved the Washington Senators: “First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League.”

Taft, Throws: Right, Career: 2-0
1910 - W, 3-0 vs. Philadelphia
1911 - W, 8-5 vs. Boston

Wilson, Throws: Right, Career: 3-0
1913 - W, 2-1 vs. NY
1914 - No pitch
1915 - W, 7-0 vs. NY
1916 - W, 12-4 vs. NY
Because of WWI and a subsequent stroke Wilson doesn’t throw out anymore pitches.

Harding, Throws: Right, Career: 2-1
1921 - L, 3-6 vs. Boston - the game took 2 hours
1922 - W, 6-5 vs. NY
1923 - W, 2-1 vs. Phil.
Harding died in office in 1923

Coolidge, Throws: Right, Career: 3-1
1924 - W, 4-0 vs. Phil. - Senators win their only World Series that year
1925 - W, 10-1 vs. NY - Lou Gehrig plays RF for the Yankees
1926 - No pitch
1927 - W, 6-2 vs. Phil.
1928 - L, 5-7 vs, Boston

Hoover, Throws: Right, Career: 1-3
1929 - L, 4-13 vs. Phil.
1930 - L, 3-4 vs. Boston
1931 - L, 3-5 (11 inn.) vs. Phil. - Future HOFer Lefty Grove pitches 9th-11th for the win
1932 - W, 1-0 vs. Boston

Roosevelt, Throws: Right, Career: 5-3
1933 - W, 4-1 vs. Phil.
1934 - W, 6-5 (11) vs. Boston
1935 - W, 4-2 vs. Phil. - Future HOFer Jimmie Foxx plays catcher; caught 109 games in his career
1936 - W, 1-0 vs. NY
1937 - L, 3-4 vs. Phil.
1938 - W, 12-8 vs. Phil. - Brothers Rick Ferrell and Wes Ferrell (HOF) are the battery for the Senators
1939 - No pitch for FDR. Couldn’t find out why.
1940 - L, 0-1 vs. Boston
1941 - L, 0-3 vs. NY
The outbreak of WWII in 1941 and FDR’s death in 1945 end his service on Opening Day.

Truman, Throws: Left, Career: 3-4
1946 - L, 3-6 vs. Boston
1947 - L, 3-9 vs. Boston
1948 - L, 4-12 vs. NY
1949 - W, 3-2 vs. Phil.
1950 - W, 8-7 vs. Phil.
1951 - W, 5-3/W, 8-4 vs. NY - Doubleheader
1952 - L, 0-3 vs. Boston

Eisenhower, Throws: Right, Career: 5-3
1953 - L, 3-6 vs. NY
1954 - W, 5-3 (10) vs. NY
1955 - W, 12-5 vs. Baltimore - 1st time the Senators play a team that’s not NY, Boston or Philly. The Orioles had moved from St. Louis before the 1954 season.
1956 - L, 4-10 vs. NY
1957 - L, 6-7 vs. Balt.
1958 - W, 5-2 vs. Boston
1959 - W, 9-2 vs. Balt.
1960 - W, 10-1 vs. Boston - Senators pitcher Camilo Pascual strikes out 15. Gives up one run - a home run to Ted Williams in his last Opening Day.

Kennedy, Throws: Right, Career: 1-2
1961 - L, 3-4 vs. Chicago - First time facing a team from the Central time zone on Opening Day. This is also the 2nd Washington Senators franchise. The original moved to Minnesota during the offseason to become the Twins.
1962 - W, 4-1 vs. Detroit
1963 - L, 1-3 vs. Baltimore
JFK was assassinated in November 1963.

POTUS record 1910-1963: 25-17

Next week: LBJ - Obama

List of presidential first pitches courtesy of baseball.about.com. Scores and boxscores available from the amazing www.retrosheet.org.

- ə

Presidential Pitches, Part III: World Series

Over the last two weeks we’ve taken a look at presidential first pitches during the regular season. First from Taft to JFK and then LBJ to Obama, what we learned was that the home teams did well when POTUS threw out that first pitch. Is it a coincidence? Of course. Does that matter? Not at all.

But as we know, regular season performance is fine but postseason performance is what matters. So let’s see how the leaders of the free world did when it was all on the line.

Note: The POTUS will receive credit for a win or loss by the home team.

Woodrow Wilson
1915 World Series, Game 2
Boston Red Sox 2, Philadelphia Phillies 1

The Phillies lose the game and lose the Series 4-1 to the Sox. The Phils won’t appear in the Series again for 35 years and won’t win one for 65 years.

Calvin Coolidge
1924 World Series, Game 1
NY Giants 4, Washington Senators 3

Senators’ ace and eventual 400-game winner Walter Johnson loses to Art Nehf. Nehf and Johnson pitch dual 12-inning complete games. The Senators would win the Series, though, for the only time in Washington, D.C. history. The above photo shows Coolidge greeting Senators’ manager, Bucky Harris, who has the seventh most managerial wins of all-time.

1925 World Series, Game 3
Pittsburgh Pirates 3, Washington Senators 4

Coolidge becomes the first president to throw out the first pitch at two World Series games.

Herbert Hoover
1929 World Series, Game 5
Chicago Cubs 2, Philadelphia A’s 3

Hoover sees the A’s win the World Series, helped by Mule Haas’ two home runs. Two weeks later the stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins. The events are probably unrelated.

1930 World Series, Game 1
St. Louis Cardinals 2, Philadelphia A’s 5

Hoover, who is seen in the photo above signing a ball for Cardinals manager Gabby Street, is present for the A’s second straight World Series appearance. He was a good luck charm because they won the game and the Series. Four of the A’s starting nine that day will end up in the Hall of Fame: Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, and Lefty Grove.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
1933 World Series, Game 3
NY Giants 0, Washington Senators 4

In his first appearance as POTUS, FDR throws out the first pitch and opens the way for the Senators shutout victory over the Giants. The Giants won the Series, which was probably fine with FDR since he was previously the governor of New York.

1936 World Series, Game 2
NY Yankees 18, NY Giants 4

The Yankees were on their way to winning the first of four consecutive World Series. It was a game that featured eight future Hall of Famers (DiMaggio, Gehrig, Dickey, Lazzeri, Gomez, McCarthy, Ott, and Terry).

Photo note: The FDR picture is from the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. FDR was campaigning in Chicago. On his left is mayor Anton Cermak. On his right is his FDR’s son James. Cermak was assassinated the next year while riding in a car with FDR in Florida. No one knows who was the actual target.

Dwight Eisenhower
1956 World Series, Game 2
NY Yankees 3, Brooklyn Dodgers 6

After a twenty-year drought, POTUS returns to the World Series. Although the Dodgers would go on to win the game, they lose the Series. This game features nine future HOFers: Mantle, Berra, Ford, Stengel, Snider, Reese, Robinson, Campanella, and Alston.

Jimmy Carter
1979 World Series, Game 7
Pittsburgh Pirates 4, Baltimore Orioles 1

In a mystery, Jimmy Carter may or may mot have thrown out the first pitch at this game. According to several sources, Carter threw out the first pitch but there is no photo of that anywhere. I contacted my friend, Tim Wiles (Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library and Archive - yeah, name dropping) and they have no photo either. He did find that Paul Dickson writes in Baseball: The President’s Game that Milton Eisenhower, brother of Dwight and president of Johns Hopkins University, threw out the first pitch. If true, this would make Carter the only president to never throw out a first pitch while in office. The photo shows Carter flipping a ball while talking to Eisenhower, but proves nothing.

George W. Bush
2001 World Series, Game 3
Arizona Diamondbacks 1, NY Yankees 2

In the most emotional presidential first pitch ever, George W. Bush takes the mound at Yankee Stadium a little over a month after the 9/11 attacks. The Yankees win the game 2-1 but lose the Series - one of the best in baseball history.

Presidential record in WS games: 6-4

Sources: baseball.about.com, www.baseball-almanac.com, and the always helpful www.retrosheet.org

- ə

Presidential First Pitches, Part I: Taft - JFK

On April 14, 1910, President William Howard Taft threw out the first pitch at Boundary Field as the Washington Senators faced off against eventual World Series champs, the Philadelphia Athletics. Walter Johnson outdueled the pride of Gettysburg College, Eddie Plank, 3-0. Thus began a somewhat erratic tradition of the President of the United States opening the major league baseball season. So how did things turn out? This week we look at the first 9 POTUSes and their roles as harbingers of luck - good or bad.

Note: From 1910 through 1963 all the games involved the Washington Senators: “First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League.”

Taft, Throws: Right, Career: 2-0
1910 - W, 3-0 vs. Philadelphia
1911 - W, 8-5 vs. Boston

Wilson, Throws: Right, Career: 3-0
1913 - W, 2-1 vs. NY
1914 - No pitch
1915 - W, 7-0 vs. NY
1916 - W, 12-4 vs. NY
Because of WWI and a subsequent stroke Wilson doesn’t throw out anymore pitches.

Harding, Throws: Right, Career: 2-1
1921 - L, 3-6 vs. Boston - the game took 2 hours
1922 - W, 6-5 vs. NY
1923 - W, 2-1 vs. Phil.
Harding died in office in 1923

Coolidge, Throws: Right, Career: 3-1
1924 - W, 4-0 vs. Phil. - Senators win their only World Series that year
1925 - W, 10-1 vs. NY - Lou Gehrig plays RF for the Yankees
1926 - No pitch
1927 - W, 6-2 vs. Phil.
1928 - L, 5-7 vs, Boston

Hoover, Throws: Right, Career: 1-3
1929 - L, 4-13 vs. Phil.
1930 - L, 3-4 vs. Boston
1931 - L, 3-5 (11 inn.) vs. Phil. - Future HOFer Lefty Grove pitches 9th-11th for the win
1932 - W, 1-0 vs. Boston

Roosevelt, Throws: Right, Career: 5-3
1933 - W, 4-1 vs. Phil.
1934 - W, 6-5 (11) vs. Boston
1935 - W, 4-2 vs. Phil. - Future HOFer Jimmie Foxx plays catcher; caught 109 games in his career
1936 - W, 1-0 vs. NY
1937 - L, 3-4 vs. Phil.
1938 - W, 12-8 vs. Phil. - Brothers Rick Ferrell and Wes Ferrell (HOF) are the battery for the Senators
1939 - No pitch for FDR. Couldn’t find out why.
1940 - L, 0-1 vs. Boston
1941 - L, 0-3 vs. NY
The outbreak of WWII in 1941 and FDR’s death in 1945 end his service on Opening Day.

Truman, Throws: Left, Career: 3-4
1946 - L, 3-6 vs. Boston
1947 - L, 3-9 vs. Boston
1948 - L, 4-12 vs. NY
1949 - W, 3-2 vs. Phil.
1950 - W, 8-7 vs. Phil.
1951 - W, 5-3/W, 8-4 vs. NY - Doubleheader
1952 - L, 0-3 vs. Boston

Eisenhower, Throws: Right, Career: 5-3
1953 - L, 3-6 vs. NY
1954 - W, 5-3 (10) vs. NY
1955 - W, 12-5 vs. Baltimore - 1st time the Senators play a team that’s not NY, Boston or Philly. The Orioles had moved from St. Louis before the 1954 season.
1956 - L, 4-10 vs. NY
1957 - L, 6-7 vs. Balt.
1958 - W, 5-2 vs. Boston
1959 - W, 9-2 vs. Balt.
1960 - W, 10-1 vs. Boston - Senators pitcher Camilo Pascual strikes out 15. Gives up one run - a home run to Ted Williams in his last Opening Day.

Kennedy, Throws: Right, Career: 1-2
1961 - L, 3-4 vs. Chicago - First time facing a team from the Central time zone on Opening Day. This is also the 2nd Washington Senators franchise. The original moved to Minnesota during the offseason to become the Twins.
1962 - W, 4-1 vs. Detroit
1963 - L, 1-3 vs. Baltimore
JFK was assassinated in November 1963.

POTUS record 1910-1963: 25-17

Next week: LBJ - Obama

List of presidential first pitches courtesy of baseball.about.com. Scores and boxscores available from the amazing www.retrosheet.org.

- ə