This column is normally published during the morning, however you might notice that today it’s coming out in the afternoon. This article published at precisely 1:30 PM eastern time, the approximate moment that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX 50 years ago today. In case you haven’t figured out, this isn’t really about the Baltimore Orioles today. The Kennedy assassination was an event that scared a generation of Americans, much in the same way that 9/11 did so many years later. I wasn’t born until 18 years after John Kennedy had passed away, however he’s my favorite President and probably my favorite historical figure. He encompassed all that was good about America, and all that still is good about America. And in doing so, he inspired a generation of Americans to ask what they in turn could do for their country.
Similar again to 9/11, President Kennedy’s death brought the nation to a standstill. With the exception of the NFL, this included the sports world. Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle would later say that his decision to play that Sunday’s slate of games was the worst decision of his career. Nevertheless, while baseball had long ended by the time the President was murdered, one has to assume that MLB would have probably canceled at least a few days worth of games similar to how they did in September of 2001.
President Kennedy was a huge football fan, a fact that figured into Commissioner Rozelle’s decision to play that week. (The Kennedy family touch football games at their Hyannis Port, MA home are legendary.) However President Kennedy also followed baseball, playing each year in the House vs. Senate baseball game prior to his Presidency, and throwing out the first ball of the new baseball season each year at Washington Senators’ opening day. He also threw out the first ball of the 1962 MLB all-star game at DC Stadium, a ballpark that would later be named in honor of his slain brother, Robert. It’s probably no coincidence that Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected President, and he’s possibly identified by sports more so than any other American President.
13:30With that said, many Americans will today remember the day when their young and fearless President was taken from them so violently. My Dad told me earlier in the week that he was ten (going on eleven) when JFK was shot. He recalled his teacher coming somberly into the classroom and saying that “the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, has been shot dead.” The thing that struck him was the formality of the announcement (by the insertion of the President’s middle name and so forth). Some people might question why a baseball writer is writing his baseball column about this on this day. As we’ve learned at various points, including 9/11, some events just take precedence over our games. I think that President Kennedy would have agreed with Commissioner Rozelle’s decision to play NFL games that weekend, however even that is a mere distraction for what’s truly important. Some events rock the world; this was one of them.