Presidential First Pitches
|07.14.09 at 12:46 pm ET|
In just his first year in office, President Barack Obama certainly has a lot on his plate.
A slumping economy to mend, two wars in the Middle East to command, a superpower nation to tend to — these are just a few of the issues he has faced since taking office in January. But Tuesday night, the commander in chief will face perhaps the most daunting task for any sitting president: reaching home plate.
Obama will become the first U.S. president to toss out the ceremonial first pitch at an All-Star Game since Gerald Ford in 1976. And while this is quite the honor, Obama better be sure his pitch doesn’t hit the dirt like political first pitches of baseball games past.
When it boils down to it, Americans will be loyal to any president regardless of party affiliation. It’s because we respect the democratic process and frown upon the instability of countries that become slaphappy with overthrowing their leaders in bloody coups.
But if the leader of the free world proves incapable of tossing a baseball from the mound to home plate, well … may God have mercy on his soul.
Like the defamation of an American flag or the denial of democratic rights, we just won’t stand for it. It’s simply un-American.
Surely Bostonians remember John Kerry’s first pitch at Fenway in the midst of the 2004 presidential election. Not only did the Massachusetts senator throw from in front of the mound, but he also failed to reach the plate as his ball sputtered out of control and finally made a dispirited descent into the dirt. The Fenway faithful booed the presidential candidate relentlessly, and Kerry went on to lose the general election by 34 electoral votes.
Coincidence? I think not. Perhaps Kerry should’ve stuck with soccer.
His opponent that year, former President George W. Bush, learned his lesson three years earlier. Following the attacks on September 11th, Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. Prior to the game, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter warned the president of the backlash he’d receive if he threw from in front of the mound and bounced it.
Much to the chagrin of terrorists abroad, Bush reached home plate with astounding accuracy and the post-9/11 New York City crowd loved it. Then Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius said the president “had a good arm.”
But this issue of throwing from the mound has just recently been thrust into the political arena. Presidents formerly threw out the first pitch from their seats, as shown here with William Howard Taft, FDR, Ike, and as recently as Nixon in 1970.
It wasn’t until 1996 that President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to pitch off the mound – a feat that likely saved him during his impeachment trials in 1998.
So Tuesday, as the 44th president of the United States prepares to open the All-Star Game with the ceremonial first pitch, will he go down in history as a girly-man or a true all-American leader?
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