Two of the biggest traditions in Major League Baseball were not even created by a baseball player…but by a baseball fan – the President of the United States.
William Howard Taft began the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the Major League Baseball season for the Washington team in 1910 When Taft began what would become a tradition the team was the Washington Senators. The tradition began with the President throwing the ball out from the stands but eventually moved out onto the playing field at the bottom of the pitcher’s mound.
A rather large man who did not fit well in the small stadium seats, Taft stood up in the middle of the seventh inning to stretch and ease the confines of the small seat. Protocol says that when the President stands everybody stands. Thinking that President Taft was standing to leave, everyone in the stadium also stood…and the tradition of the seventh inning stretch was born.
One hundred and seven years after President Taft began the tradition of throwing out the first pitch, the practice is in jeopardy when the Baseball season officially begins on April 3. When the Washington Nationals extended the official invitation to the White House for President Donald Trump to come to Nationals Park and throw out the first pitch when the Nats open the season against the Miami Marlins, the White House responded with the ubiquitous cover everything excuse of a “scheduling conflict”.
It would not be the first time that Trump has thrown out a first pitch, did so at Fenway Park in 2006 when the Red Sox played the New York Yankees.
It must also be noted that Trump received only 4.1 percent of the Washington DC vote in last November’s election and his current approval rating is down to 35 percent according to the latest Gallup poll.
Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to start the game. Back in 2012 Trump criticized the Nationals for shutting Strasburg down to avoid serious injury.
The popular social media reason for Trump declining the offer is the size of his hands; reportedly they are on the small side. Another is the potential jokes and remarks he would garner if his pitch was less than a perfect strike.
To be fair, 2017 will not be the first time a President did not throw out the first pitch of the season in their first year in office. In 1945 President Harry Truman declined the honour after being inaugurated only eight days earlier after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt and in 2009 President Barack Obama declined the honour after returning from one foreign trip and preparing for another a few days later.
Since Taft began the tradition, 13 U.S. Presidents have thrown out the first pitch on opening day of Washington baseball.
ESPN invited Trump to fill out an NCAA bracket…he refused.
photos courtesy of:
By Anders Zorn – http://www.whitehouseresearch.org/assetbank-whha/action/viewHome, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20164116
By Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA – A look at Nationals Park before Game 5 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Nationals., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52496565
By Bain News Service – http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005017275/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15615342
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