As opening day nears on Monday, I have begun to salivate for the sounds and sights of spring. My fantasy teams are picked, my tickets for my two games are bought, and the chair is nice and warm. I expect President Obama to throw out the first pitch on the South Side while I will be watching the north side. But when we look at what President has had the most impact on the traditions of baseball, it is none other than William Howard Taft.
Although not a particularly well-liked President in the annals of history, Taft was befriended my many in baseball – both players and owners.
“I’ll never forget the first time President Taft appeared at our ball park. In the season of 1909 and our players got so excited that we booted the game away to the Red Sox.” – Walter Johnson
But despite Taft’s policies in the office, his appearance at Washington Senators’ games set forth two traditions, one being historical fact and the other being urban legend. Taft is known to have thrown the first pitch at the opening of the 1910 season. It was well documented in many newspapers at the time. What has not been substantiated is whether or not, Taft started the tradition of the seventh inning stretch. Legend states:
According to reports, as the game continued to drag on, the six-foot-two president grew increasingly uncomfortable in the small wooden chair that was no doubt weaning under the weight of its presidential patron. By the middle of the seventh-inning, Taft was unable to bear the pain any longer and stood up to stretch his aching legs. In those days, the leader of the free world commanded a tremendous amount of reverence and as his fellow spectators noticed him rising, they followed his lead as a sign of respect. A few minutes later, Taft returned to his seat and the game resumed.
However one wants to look at it, the girth of the man is only overshadowed by the legacy he has left on baseball. The sad thing he is he did not leave the same mark in the White House.
Ed. Note – Quotes are from http://www.baseball-almanac.com