Which U.S. President is Responsible for a Baseball Tradition?
Mar 31, 2015 09:56AM
By Charles Reichblum
On an April day in 1910, William Howard Taft, then president of the United States, went to the opening game of baseball season in Washington and threw out the first pitch, thereby starting the tradition of baseball teams inviting a special guest to open the season in that way.
We might add that Taft possibly started another tradition that day. Later in the game, after the top of the seventh inning, Taft had to get back to the White House for an appointment. When he stood up to leave, fans throughout the ballpark also stood up as a sign of respect for the president as he walked through the aisles to the exit. Some baseball historians feel that this was the beginning of fans standing in the middle of the seventh inning for what is now known as the ‘seventh inning stretch.’ The fact that the Washington team then rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning on that opening day also created the belief that it brings good luck to the home team.
Aside from President Taft’s contributions to baseball lore, Opening Day is a special day throughout baseball. Notice that Opening Day is almost always spelled with a capital ‘O’ and a capital ‘D’, attesting to its importance. It has come to be a symbol of a new beginning, of new hope, and the real beginning of the spring and summer sports seasons.
All of which brings us to some immortal comments once made by baseball manager Casey Stengel. He said that baseball is a funny game, and here’s his reasoning why:
- If a batted ball hits the foul line or the foul pole, it’s a fair ball.
- The right-hand batter’s box is on the left-field side of the plate, while the left-hand batter’s box is on the right-field side of the plate.
- If a batter walks with the bases loaded, he’s credited with a run BATTED in.
- It’s lawful to steal.
- If a batter fails to get a hit in two out of every three at bats all year, he’s a star because a .333 batting average is considered very good.
Meantime, after Pittsburgh’s long winter, Opening Day is finally here. Good luck, Pirates, and play ball!
Dr. Knowledge is heard on KDKA and the CBS radio network with his “Knowledge in a Nutshell” feature, and is author of the “Knowledge in a Nutshell” book series. His website is www.knowledgeinanutshell.com.