Baseball: the presidents’ pastime

BY Rachel Wellford  April 1, 2014 at 5:18 PM EST

President Barack Obama welcomed the 2013 World Series champions Boston Red Sox, at the White House on Tuesday

One day after baseball season kicked off in America, President Obama hosted the Boston Red Sox on the South Lawn of the White House to congratulate the team for winning the World Series at the conclusion of the 2013 season. The president also recognized the role the team played in lifting up the city of Boston in the wake of the marathon bombings that occurred on April 15, 2013.

Baseball has long been called America’s pastime, and major league teams have often been a source of pride for cities across the United States, from New York to Boston to Chicago to St. Louis. America’s connection to the sport is so strong that it has almost become a requirement for the president to be loyal to a team and enjoy a day at the ballpark.

America’s affinity for the sport made its way to the White House during the Taft administration. President William Howard Taft was the first American president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in 1910. It was opening day for the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Since Taft, every U.S. President has thrown out at least one first pitch during a Major League Baseball game.

Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

Photo by Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

  • President Woodrow Wilson continued the tradition on opening day in 1913, when the Senators played the newly-named Yankees.
  • Photo via Library of Congress

    Photo via Library of Congress

  • Wilson went on to throw out three more ceremonial pitches, including the first ever by a U.S. president in a World Series game.
  • Photo via Library of Congress

    Photo via Library of Congress

  • President Warren Harding did not help the home team much, when the Washington Senators fell to the Red Sox on opening day in 1921. It was the team’s first loss when a president threw out the first pitch.
  • Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

    Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

  • “Cool Cal” threw out a record six ceremonial pitches during his time in office, including two World Series appearances. President Calvin Coolidge’s wife was an even bigger fan of the game. Grace Coolidge was a longtime supporter of the Boston Red Sox and was even named the “First Lady of Baseball” in 1955.
  • Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

    Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

  • On January 9, 1955, President Herbert Hoover was quoted as saying, “next to religion, baseball has had a greater impact on our American way of life than any other American institution.” Hoover also threw out six first pitches while president, including two at World Series games.
  • Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

    Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

  • President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our longest serving president, broke the record by throwing out nine first pitches between 1933 and 1941. Then in 1942, when the commissioner of baseball wrote to Roosevelt about whether to discontinue baseball for the duration of the war, FDR replied in a letter saying, “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.”
  • Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

    Photo via Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress

  • President Harry S. Truman threw out seven first pitches while in office, but his most memorable game was opening day 1950, when the president threw out two balls — one from his left hand and one from his right. Truman’s wife, Bess, was an avid Kansas City Royals fan, and some said a bigger fan of the game than her husband.
  • Photo by Abbie Rowe via Truman Presidential Library

    Photo by Abbie Rowe via Truman Presidential Library

  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a baseball player himself in his youth, kept the tradition going strong throughout his two terms in office. Eisenhower once said, “not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest.”
  • Photo via Eisenhower Presidential Library

    Photo via Eisenhower Presidential Library

  • Having grown up in Brookline, Massachusetts, President John F. Kennedy was a die-hard Red Sox fan. President Kennedy threw out three first pitches before he was assassinated in 1963.
  • Photo by Robert L. Knudsen via JFK National Archives

    Photo by Robert L. Knudsen via JFK National Archives

  • Like Eisenhower, President Lyndon Johnson played baseball in high school. LBJ threw out three first pitches in Washington during his presidency, and attended the first baseball game at the now-demolished Houston Astrodome.
  • Photo by Arnold Sachs/Getty Images

    Photo by Arnold Sachs/Getty Images

  • President Richard Nixon was perhaps the biggest baseball fan among the U.S. presidents. He was even offered a job as Commissioner of Major League Baseball after resigning the presidency. Nixon once said, “I don’t know a lot about politics, but I know a lot about baseball.”
  • Photo via Library of Congress

    Photo via Library of Congress

  • President Gerald Ford never threw out a first pitch in the nation’s capital, but he did continue the custom at a Texas Rangers game and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 1976.
  • Photo by MLB Photos via Getty Image

    Photo by MLB Photos via Getty Image

  • President Jimmy Carter only managed to throw out one first pitch while president, during the World Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

    Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

  • President Ronald Reagan’s first ceremonial pitch happened in Baltimore, when the president arrived unannounced. Reagan watched the remainder of the game from the dugout.
  • Photo via Reagan Presidential Library

    Photo via Reagan Presidential Library

  • President George H. W. Bush was the captain of the Yale baseball team and even went to the College World series in 1947. President Bush threw out four first pitches during his time in office.
  • Photo via George H.W. Bush National Archives

    Photo via George H.W. Bush National Archives

  • President Bill Clinton was the first president to successfully throw from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher, during the Orioles’ opening day in 1993.
  • Photo by Scott Wachter//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Photo by Scott Wachter//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

  • President George W. Bush, like his father, was an avid baseball fan, and threw out seven first pitches while in office. President Bush is also a former owner of the Texas Rangers.
  • White House photo

    White House photo

  • President Barack Obama has thrown out two first pitches while in office, the second on the 100th anniversary of President Taft’s first pitch. President Obama is an ardent White Sox fan.
  • U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Selby

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Selby