Monday, April 14, 2014

President William Taft Throws Out First Pitch

On April 14, 1910, William Howard Taft, the 27th United States president, throws the "first ball" to Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson. Traditionally, the commissioner of the District of Columbia would throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Senators' first game of the season.

But with Taft in the audience, the ball was handed to him instead. Taft was unaware that would be throwing the pitch, as he had been sitting in the stands. Rather than throwing it to the catcher, as norm, Taft threw the ball in to Johnson -- reasoning that he would need the ball anyway.

And just that like, a Major League Baseball tradition was born.

From 1910 to 1972, every acting president threw out the first pitch of the year at least once at the Senators' home stadium.

There were a few instances, including four straight years during World War II, when national issues prevented the president from attending. In 1912 for instance, Vice President James Sherman attended in place of Taft, who was the mourning the loss of Archibald Butt, who died on the Titanic.

In 1973, the Senators moved out west and became the Texas Rangers. Washington eventually regained a baseball team at around the turn of the century, but the tradition of presidential opening day pitches persisted nonetheless.

In 1973, Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch at Anaheim Stadium. A year later, Gerald Ford threw out the first pitch in Texas.

The presidential streak came to an end with Jimmy Carter, who threw out the first ball prior to Game 7 of the 1979 World Series, but never to begin the season.

Ronald Reagen started a new streak by throwing out the first pitch in 1984.

President Barrack Obama has held up the streak started by Reagan by throwing at the first pitch at both Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals' games.