On the Ball: Presidents and the First Pitch

Another baseball season means yet another year of witnessing various VIPs, celebrities, and honored guests demonstrating their inability to properly throw a baseball 60 feet (Exhibit A). Presidents are also a part of this sports ritual. It started in 1910 when a paunchy William Howard Taft tossed out a ceremonial first pitch from the stands on the Washington Senators’ Opening Day. (Ceremonial first pitches were not originally tossed from the mound.) The headline in The Washington Post the next day was, “TAFT TOSSES BALL. Crowd Cheers President’s Fine Delivery of the Sphere.” This might be the classiest headline ever written for a sports game.

With that “fine delivery of the sphere,” Taft began a tradition that continues to this day. Since 1910 every president has now thrown at least one ceremonial first throw at a professional baseball game while in office — typically on Opening Day, at the All Star game or during the World Series. President Obama has done this more than once, first at the 2009 All Star Game and again on Opening Day of the 2010 season. Here’s President Obama discussing throwing out the first pitch. Being the athlete that he is, President Obama’s toss was solid, however his sartorial decision to wear “mom jeans” (with a crease!) at the All Star Game created a buzz around the blogosphere the next day.

That said, when you think about it Obama could probably beat any of the world leaders in a game of one-on-one on the basketball court or in a game of Horse. However, the ceremonial toss doesn’t always have to have presidential gravitas. Check out this video of the scary long, black-haired demon from The Ring toss the first pitch at this Japanese baseball game. Pretty awesome…until she comes crawling out through your computer screen!

To see more photos of past presidents throwing out the first pitch check out this photo gallery and this one.

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