Baseball isn’t just the stats. As much as anything else, baseball is the style of Willie Mays, or the determination of Hank Aaron, or the endurance of a Mickey Mantle, the discipline of Carl Yastrzemski, the drive of Eddie Mathews, the reliability of a (Al) Kaline or a (Joe) Morgan, the grace of a (Joe) DiMaggio, the kindness of a Harmon Killebrew, and the class of Stan Musial, the courage of a Jackie Robinson, or the heroism of Lou Gehrig. My hope for the game is that these qualities will never be lost.
~George W. Bush
President Warren G. Harding threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Washington Senators game held on April 13, 1921, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Washington ended up losing to the Red Sox, 6-3, making this the first time in six Opening Days contests the Senators have lost with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch.
As much as I lacked confidence in my ability to communicate verbally, I always had confidence in my athletic ability. Sports were as natural to me as speaking was unnatural. And sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance — and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated in a game, so even when I stuttered, I was always the kid who said, “Give me the ball.”
If you weren’t around in those times, I don’t think you could appreciate what a figure the Babe was. He was bigger than the President.
On March 26, 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Jackie Robinson. Rachel Robinson accepted the award on behalf of her husband. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is considered the highest civilian honor given in the United States.
You can watch President Reagan’s remarks from that Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in the video below. If you’d like to go straight to his remarks about Robinson, you can find them at the 16:03 timestamp.
Though he wasn’t exactly the game’s biggest fan, on May 16, 1907, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues issued the first presidential lifetime pass to President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt preferred sports that were “more vigorous,” though he later admitted that he enjoyed watching his son Quentin participate in baseball. Nevertheless, Roosevelt never attended a major league baseball game.
The first professional sports team to visit the White House was the Forest Cities ball club, a recently defunct franchise of the National Association, brought to Washington, D.C. by President Chester A. Arthur on April 13, 1883. Later in the season, President Arthur also hosted the new National League’s New York Gothams (who would become known as the Giants in 1885).
On April 9, 1962, President John F. Kennedy waited out a rain delay and threw the ceremonial first pitch to open up Washington’s new $23 million D.C. Stadium for its inaugural baseball season. The stadium had initially opened the previous fall for Redskins football on October 1, 1961. More than 44,000 fans attended the Senators’ Opening Day in April as they defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-1.
At Griffith Stadium on October 4, 1924, Calvin Coolidge became the first United States President to attend a World Series opener. The Giants managed to defeat the hometown Senators in 12 innings that day, with a score of 4-3.
The first U.S. President to attend a major league baseball game was Benjamin Harrison, who attended a contest between the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Senators on June 6, 1892 in Washington, D.C. Cincinnati defeated the Senators, 7-4, in eleven innings at Boundary Field.