Presidents of the United States Attend Baseball’s Opening Day
President McKinley was invited to the Baltimore Orioles National League opening day in 1897, and though he assured the team he would try to make it to the game, he ended up not going. Had McKinley attended he might have been the first president to attend baseball’s opening day and throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
In 1910 President William Howard Taft threw a ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season. Taft, threw the baseball from the grandstand to pitcher Walter Johnson, but catcher Gabby Street who Taft was supposed to throw it to, took the ball from Johnson and promptly put the ball in his pocket to keep as a souvenir. Later, Street returned the baseball to Johnson who went on to pitch a one-hit, 3-0 shutout against the visiting Philadelphia Athletics.
After the game Johnson sent the ball to the White House to have it autographed by Taft. President Taft returned the ball to Johnson with this inscription: “To Walter Johnson, with the hope that he may continue to be as formidable as in yesterday’s game. William H. Taft.”
Since then it has become a tradition for the president to attend baseball’s opening day and toss a pitch.
It was relatively easy for the president to show up at opening day with the Washington Senators having their home games at Griffith Stadium from 1911 – 1961, only five miles from the White House.
In recent years many presidents have shirked the tradition and have attended only one or two opening games during their presidential tenure. While he was President, Jimmy Carter never attended an opening day, but did throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the 1979 World Series. In his eight years as commander-in-chief Barack Obama has only attended one opening day.
Here is a gallery of president’s at opening day.
Harry Truman opening day first pitch – 1952.