Posted in: Culture

The Power of the Pitch

By | February 8, 2017

President Obama throwing out the first pitch at a 2010 baseball game.

Along with the perks that come with becoming the leader of the free world, President Trump will most likely be given the opportunity to throw the first pitch at a baseball game.

After all, every sitting president since William Howard Taft has thrown out a first pitch. The idea for the presidential first pitch emerged from the McKinley administration, according to John Thorn, Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball.

“I believe the idea was devised for McKinley, because he had thrown a ceremonial first pitch at a Minor League Baseball game prior to coming to the White House,” Thorn explained in an interview with the HPR. “But McKinley was assassinated early on and Teddy Roosevelt, though he was given a lifetime pass to all Major League games in 1907 … never threw out a first pitch.”

This ensured that Taft would forever be the president remembered in baseball almanacs. Taft was certainly a sports fan, and his half-brother, Charles Phelps Taft, was a part-owner of the Chicago Cubs for a short period of time. However, the idea for the presidential first pitch was not simply rooted in his enthusiasm for the game.

“The idea behind it was that politics might be divisive, but baseball was the one thing that all Americans could agree about,” Thorn said. “So for a president to attach himself to baseball was not so much the president honoring baseball, but the president looking to surf on the universal popularity of the game.”

Similar to presidents before him, Trump is an unabashed baseball fan. As a high schooler at New York Military Academy, he played the sport quite well. He eventually became the captain of his team and once claimed he was “the best baseball player in New York” when he was young.

As he works to fulfill his vow to unite our country, Trump should take up the game he loved as a child and throw out the first pitch. The love for America’s pastime could help buoy his low approval ratings.

After the September 11 attacks, President Bush threw out the first pitch at the third game of the World Series in New York. According to Thorn, it had “enormous symbolic importance and the country was absolutely united behind both its government and its game.”

Yet those days of harmony are long gone. A Gallup poll released in late November revealed the deep divide in our country. Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe the country is split on the most important values. Acts of unity have never been so needed.

Image Credit: William Selby/Wikimedia Commons

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