Baltimore Orioles: Play ball, Mr. President!

Courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Presidential first pitches have a history with the Baltimore Orioles.

Being so close to our nation’s capital, the Baltimore Orioles have a bit of history with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch before a game. Last year on President’s Day I wrote a column on this topic because I felt it was a fun way to celebrate a holiday designed for George Washington’s birthday. So this year I’m going to do the same. Almost every President from William Howard Taft to Barack Obama has participated in this grand tradition – and we hope it moves forward with whomever we elect next year!

Courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

When Washington lost the Senators in the early 1970’s, there was no longer a team in our nation’s capital for the President to carry on this tradition. So here and there Baltimore became a substitute for the President to faithfull execute these particular duties of the office of President of the United States. President Jimmy Carter, to this day an ardent baseball fan, was the first President to throw out the first pitch in Baltimore.  He came to Memorial Stadium during the 1979 World Series against Pittsburgh and did the honors. No better time than under the bright lights!

On Opening Day, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was the first to do the honors on Opening Day in Baltimore. He made what amounted to an unannounced visit, as the initial reports had him canceling his appearance due to security concerns. President Reagan returned to Memorial Stadium in 1986 once again for the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.

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  • Regadan’s succesor, President George H.W. Bush, made his debut on on 33rd St. on Opening Day, 1989. Interestingly enough, he was joined for the game by President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who was in the midst of a state visit to the United States at the time. (Mubarak did not partake in the ceremony.)  Three years later, President Bush returned to Baltimore and threw out the first ceremonial first pitch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. For the record, the former Yale first baseman threw the ball over the plate that afternoon – but in the dirt. He would later say that he simply threw a slider!

    Later that year, America elected a new President in Bill Clinton – who made his debut at Oriole Park just a few months after taking office in 1993. President Clinton has a very special place in the history of ceremonial first pitches. Prior to 1993, most Presidents would throw the pitch either from the stands or from the base of the pitcher’s mound. President Clinton threw from the pitcher’s rubber – a twist on the tradition that continues to this day. Incidentally President Clinton was the youngest man elected in some time, so there’s a bit of symbolism in that I suppose.

    President Clinton returned to Baltimore on Opening Day, 1996, however Baltimore hasn’t seen a chief executive do the honors since then. Vice-President Joe Biden came to town in 2009 for the first pitch at Camden Yards, but that’s the closest that Charm City has come. And with Washington having a team again, it’s understandable in a way. I’m the first one to say that I think the Washington Nationals should open at home every year, with the President of the United States throwing out the first ball.

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    President William Howard Taft began this rich tradition before the Washington Senators’ Opening Day game in 1910. Woodrow Wilson was the first President to do the honors outside of Washington DC, and as Presidential travel became easier many Presidents did travel outside of DC to throw first pitches. But every President since Taft has done it in Washington, with the exception of course of Presidents such as Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (who led our country while Washington didn’t have a team).

    In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevel’s first pitch actually hit a camera in the stands, and ten years later in 1950 President Harry Truman actually threw out two first pitches – one right and one left-handed. President John F. Kennedy was the first to open the season at the newly-constructed DC Stadium, now aptly named RFK Stadium in honor of his slain brother. And with the Seantors’ departure, President Richard Nixon was the first to open the baseball season outside of Washington DC, doing the honors in Anaheim, Ca.

    Arguably the most famous first pitch in recent history was President George W. Bush at the World Series in Yankee Stadium in 2001. The game was played in the aftermath of 9/11, and it served as a symbol to the nation. President Bush was also on hand when baseball returned to our nation’s capital, throwing out the first pitch at RFK Stadium before the Nationals’ home opener in 2005. He also opened Nationals Park in 2008.

    President Obama threw out his first ceremonial first pitch at the 2009 all-star game in St. Louis. One year later he did the honors at Nationals Park in Washington, famously wearin a Chicago White Sox cap (his favorite team) in doin so. Many Washington fans thought that was somewhat disrespectful, but I kind of got a kick out of it. The teams are in opposite leagues, and it was simply his twist on a time-honored tradition.

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    There’s no other sport that can boast this type of bond with the President of the United States. As I said, I think the President should throw out the first pitch in Washington DC every year on Opening Day. Obviously next year we’ll have a new President – so of the candidates, who do we think might have the best arm? Jeb Bush obviously comes from a baseball family, and Hilary Clinton is a legendary Chicago Cubs fan. However I’m going to subit that the best arm of the bunch would be Marco Rubio. And I say that for one simple reason; he’s young!