OUR PRESIDENTS AND BASEBALL
Using three books as reference guides; The Dickson Baseball Directory, by Paul Dickson, Baseball America’s Diamond Mind, by Richard Crepeau, and The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, by William A. Dregorio, it is interesting that some of our presidents were baseball fans.
William Howard Taft followed baseball and inaugurated the custom for the president to toss out the first ball at the beginning of the major league baseball season. A baseball legend says Taft inadvertently created the seventh inning stretch.
Grover Cleveland wasn’t too involved in baseball, but the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after his daughter. In 1929 a company approached Babe Ruth to market a Babe Ruth candy bar. The Baby Ruth Company bought it out and the Babe Ruth candy bar was never marketed.
FDR’s Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, once called critics of his foreign policy; “Bleacher Critics.”
FDR was very good for baseball and encouraged the success of baseball during WWII. He many times used baseball terminology to make a point. He said he didn’t expect to get a hit every time at bat, but would seek the highest batting average for himself and the team. FDR pushed a telegraph key in the White House on May 23, 1935 and activated the lights for a game in Cincinnati. He would also send letters to men voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. FDR once stated, “Not only was baseball the great national sport, it was the symbol of America’s melting pot.” He had over 25,000 postage stamps in his collection and very much enjoyed the 1939 baseball commemorative stamp and believed in the Doubleday Myth.
Warren G. Harding attended baseball games regularly. During the 1920 presidential election, the Chicago Cubs, who came to Marion, Ohio to play an exhibition game, visited him.
Ronald Regan played Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1952 movie Winning Team. Regan took pitching instructions from Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians and general instruction from Jerry Priddy, of the Detroit Tigers. After graduating from college Regan was a weekend sportscaster at WOC Davenport, Iowa for $10 per game plus travel. Transferring to station WHO Des Moines, he became a regional celebrity, announcing major league baseball and Big Ten football. He did many baseball games using telegraph messages.
George W. Bush was fanatical about baseball; a catcher in little league and a pitcher at Yale his freshman year. Many players said he was a very good bench jockey. He collected baseball cards and memorized the statistics. He attended many minor league games at Midland, Texas and later became part owner and managing partner for the Texas Rangers. When he became governor of Texas he decorated his office with hundreds of baseballs autographed by Major League players.
A few years ago Presidents could take a little time off and enjoy some baseball. Maybe congress should do likewise.