Goldman: U.S. history through presidential first pitches

From SABR member Steven Goldman at SB Nation on April 7, 2014:

Since William Howard Taft in 1910, there has been a tradition of the President of the United States throwing out ceremonial first pitches. This has most often been done on Opening Day in Washington or Baltimore, depending on where on the continuum of the now-you-see-‘em existence of the Washington franchise the particular president landed. It seemed to me that just as you can look for subtext in every kind of art, we might be able to find something indicative of the state of the president or country in these classic images of presidential pitchers in action.

A note of polite caution: This is a light tour, not a political treatise. We all have our altars and our points of view. Some of mine may be detected in the panorama that follows. This is as inevitable as it would be with anything any author might write on any subject — the writer on sewing brings to a piece a point of view on needlework, the writer on kangaroos a feeling about their worth as living creatures. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to stake out any particular ideological ground, but merely to give a sense of the times as each baseball flew from the chief executive’s hand.

It is for this reason that I have opted for now to stop well short of the present day. The political wars of the present, or for that matter the early 2000s or even the Clinton years, are still too raw for us to touch on them in a lighthearted way. Heck, I have some trepidation about approaching Ronald Reagan, who some want to add to Mt. Rushmore and some want to put under it. Thus we present Presidents and Baseball: The Ragtime Era Through the ‘Mad Men’ Years — stopping, in this installment, with World War II — and go no further.

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Originally published: April 7, 2014. Last Updated: April 7, 2014.