Thursday, April 11, 2019

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack

The tradition of American presidents throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to open the baseball season began in 1910 when William Howard Taft, the corpulent commander in chief out of Cincinnati, went to the Washington Senators game fresh off a fight he had with a group of women fighting for the vote for their gender.

Taft, a Republican, did not want women to vote. He felt that if they did, "power might be exercised by the least desirable person." 

So there you have it. And then, Taft took the baseball in his hamlike hands at the season opener, and threw it on the field when he realized it wasn't a mound of mashed potatoes.  Then and there began a custom that was only broken up in 2017, when Donald J. Trump failed to continue it, as he did in 2018 and this year as well.

Even during the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt kept on tossing that first one out because he believed that baseball was the right panacea for a public in need of cheering up because of...the depression.

No one knows, and Trump himself isn't saying, why the current president does not partake in this longtime ceremonial function. It's all the more interesting because a man named Michael D'Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, sat and tape-recorded interviews, eventually publishing a book called The Truth About Trump in 2014, and in one interview, Trump went on about his high-school exploits at the New York Military Academy in the 1960s.

This is verbatim, right from the book:

"I was always the best athlete. Something that nobody knew about me. ...I was the best baseball player in New York when I was young. ... But I also knew that it was very limited, because in those days you couldn't even make a lot of money playing baseball. ... Everybody wanted me to be a baseball player. But I was good in other sports too. I was good in wresting, I was very good at football. I was always the best at sports."

So it's one of the great mysteries of our age, why Trump doesn't come on down to the mound at Nationals Park in D.C. or the much-nicer Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and teach some of the young pitchers how to throw his famous fastball.  If he needs a ride to Baltimore, I'll be delighted to pick him up.

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