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Trump, Baseball, and the American Presidency

Prior to Major League Baseball’s Opening Night festivities, it was reported that President Donald Trump would be throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on August 15, when the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox. The president made the announcement before he played catch with retired Yankee Mariano Rivera. Mariano Rivera is one of the most legendary Yankees in their storied history, along with being one of the greatest closers to ever play the game. Donald Trump has a long history with the Yankees, including being very close friends with former owner George Steinbrenner. 

This will be Donald Trump’s first time throwing out the ceremonial first pitch as president. He declined to throw out the first pitch last year during game 5 of the World Series when the Washington Nationals hosted the Houston Astros. However, Mr. Trump has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch before. He did it in 2004, when he landed his helicopter on the field at a Somerset Patriots game in 2004. He has also thrown out the first pitch at Fenway Park in 2006 and at Wrigley Field in 2000. 

When President Trump tosses the first pitch on August 15, he will be continuing a long line of tradition that is held between baseball and the presidency. Every single president since the early 1900’s has thrown out a ceremonial first pitch. William Howard Taft was the first president to throw out the first pitch, when he did so in April of 1910 from the stands onto the field. Woodrow Wilson continued the tradition, and he also became the first president to attend a World Series game. Harry Truman once threw two first pitches; one with each hand due to the fact that he was ambidextrous. Lyndon B. Johnson threw four first pitches during his time in office, and he even set the record for most hot dogs eaten by a president at a baseball game (he ate four). 

Richard Nixon became the first president to throw out the first pitch outside of Washington D.C. when he did so in 1973 in Anaheim for an Angels game. The Washington team then, the Washington Senators, had recently moved to Arlington and became the Texas Rangers. Gerald Ford became the second president to throw the first pitch with both hands. He did so at the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati in 1976 to celebrate the National League and the American League. Jimmy Carter became the first, and so far only, president to have never thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day. He did, however, throw the first pitch at Game 7 of the World Series in 1979. President Carter would go on to throw out two more first pitches in his post-presidency. 

Ronald Reagan threw out three pitches during his eight years in office, including his most famous appearance at Wrigley Field in 1988. President Reagan also helped broadcast the Cubs game for an one and one-half innings with legendary sportscaster Harry Caray. Reagan was a former sports broadcaster in Des Moines, Iowa before he became an actor, and he would recreate Cubs games using telegraph reports that would come in throughout the game. 

George H.W. Bush threw out four first pitches, being a former baseball player himself. Bill Clinton became the first president to throw a strike from the actual pitcher’s mound rather than from its base. George W. Bush would top that performance when he threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series just weeks after the tragic events of September 11th. 

The relationship between the presidency and baseball is one of the most interesting relationships in America. Baseball is known as “America’s Game” and it has been one of the most unifying forces in our history. Despite a pandemic, baseball returning, and President Trump throwing out the first pitch, is an important sign for a country seeking to return to some form of normalcy after months of being stuck inside with not much to look forward to.

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