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Ceremonial first pitch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Woodrow Wilson, Washington Senators home opener v. New York Yankees, Griffith Stadium, April 20, 1916.
Richard Nixon, Opening Day, Washington Senators v. New York Yankees, RFK Stadium, April 7, 1969.
Ronald Reagan, Chicago Cubs v. Pittsburgh Pirates, Wrigley Field, September 30, 1988.
George W. Bush, 2001 World Series Game 3, Yankee Stadium, October 30, 2001.

The ceremonial first pitch is a longstanding ritual of baseball in which a guest of honor throws a ball to mark the end of pregame festivities and the start of the game. Originally, the guest threw a ball from their seat in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team, but the ritual changed after United States President Ronald Reagan threw the first pitch on the field at an unscheduled appearance at a Baltimore Orioles game. Now, the guest stands on or in front of the pitcher's mound and throws towards home plate. The ceremonial thrower sometimes stands on the mound (as a pitcher would). The recipient of the pitch is usually a player from the home team.

The ceremonial thrower may be a notable person (dignitary, celebrity, former player, etc.) who is in attendance, an executive from a company that sponsors the team (especially when that company has sponsored that night's promotional giveaway), or a person who won the first pitch opportunity as a contest prize. Often, especially in the minor leagues, multiple first pitches are made.

The practice of having ceremonial first pitches dates back to at least 1890, when throwers were often a mayor, governor, or other locally notable individual.[1] Ohio Governor (and future U.S. president) William McKinley, for example, "threw the ball into the diamond" before an opening day game between Toledo and Columbus in 1892.[2] Former Japanese Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first game of an American All-Star team's tour of Japan in 1908, making him possibly the first person who had served as a national head of government to throw out a first pitch.[1][3]

Ceremonial first pitches during the World Series are subject to the Commissioner of Baseball's approval. Section 7.13 of the World Series Manual states, "All first‐ball throwers are subject to final approval of the commissioner. Recommendations are solicited from the participating clubs, but no commitments should be made until approval has been received. The use of politicians, movie stars, etc., will not be approved except in rare or unusual circumstances." Baltimore Orioles owner Jerold Hoffberger was fined $2,500 for allowing Maryland Governor Harry Hughes to throw out the first pitch before Game 2 of the 1979 World Series over the objections of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.[4]

On April 23, 2012, the Texas Rangers executed a unique twist on the first pitch tradition. Before the Rangers' home game against the New York Yankees, the team held an official retirement ceremony for longtime catcher Iván Rodríguez. Instead of going to the pitcher's mound, he went behind home plate and threw the first "pitch" to longtime teammate Michael Young, who was standing at second base.[5]

On July 23, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw the first pitch of the 2020 MLB season after it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[6]

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Presidential first pitches

The American tradition of presidential first pitches began in 1910, when United States President William Howard Taft threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Senators' Opening Day at Griffith Stadium. Every president since, with the exceptions of Donald Trump and Joe Biden (who has yet to do so during his current presidential term) has thrown out at least one ceremonial first pitch during or after their presidency, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, usually with much fanfare.[7]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt has thrown the most presidential first pitches while in office at 11,[8] while President George W. Bush has thrown 14 first pitches overall, including those thrown before and after holding the office. Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter are the only presidents to not throw a ceremonial first pitch for an Opening Day during their presidency, though the latter did so after he left office.[8]

First pitch by a future president
^ First pitch by a former president
* First pitch by a vice president
Presidential First Pitches
Event President Ballpark Notes
1910 Opening Day William Howard Taft National Park First sitting president to participate in Opening Day ceremonies; preceded Washington NationalsPhiladelphia Athletics game on April 14.[9]
1911 Opening Day The National Park where the first-ever presidential ceremonial first pitch was thrown burned down in March 1911, and a new stadium, also called National Park at first, was built in its place. It would be renamed Griffith Stadium in 1923.[8]
1912 Opening Day James S. Sherman (Vice President)* Taft did not attend because of the death of his friend Archibald Butt in the Titanic disaster.[8]
1913 Opening Day Woodrow Wilson [10]
1915 Opening Day
1915 World Series Baker Bowl Wilson's first public appearance with then-fiancée Edith since their engagement.[10][11]
1916 Home Opener National Park Nationals defeated New York Yankees on April 20.[10][12]
1921 Opening Day Warren G. Harding Griffith Stadium First loss for the Nationals with a president throwing out the first ball.[8]
1922 Opening Day [8]
1923 Opening Day Yankee Stadium
1923 Home Opener Griffith Stadium Done two days after his first pitch at Yankee Stadium.[8]
1924 Opening Day Calvin Coolidge [8]
1924 World Series
1925 Opening Day
1925 World Series
1927 Opening Day [8][10]
1928 Opening Day Coolidge left after the first inning due to cold weather.[8][10]
1929 Opening Day Herbert Hoover [8]
1929 World Series Shibe Park Held two weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[8][13]
1930 Opening Day Griffith Stadium [8]
1930 World Series Shibe Park
1931 Opening Day Hoover was received by a mixed audience, with some opposed to Prohibition chanting "We want beer!"[8][14]
1932 Opening Day Griffith Stadium [8]
1933 Opening Day Franklin D. Roosevelt
1933 World Series
1934 Opening Day
1935 Opening Day
1936 Opening Day
1936 World Series Yankee Stadium
1937 Opening Day Griffith Stadium A plane flew overhead carrying a banner reading "Play the game, don't pack the court," in protest of Roosevelt's failed Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.[10]
1937 All-Star Game [8]
1938 Opening Day
1940 Opening Day Roosevelt's pitch hit a Washington Post camera.[8][15]
1941 Opening Day [8]
1945 World Series Harry S. Truman First left-handed presidential ceremonial first pitch.[8]
1946 Opening Day [8]
1947 Opening Day
1948 Opening Day
1949 Opening Day
1950 Opening Day Truman threw out two balls, one left-handed and one right-handed.[8]
1951 Opening Day [8]
1952 Opening Day
1953 Opening Day Dwight D. Eisenhower Eisenhower skipped Opening Day to play golf at Augusta National, but the game was postponed by rain and he threw out the first ball at the rescheduled game.[8][10]
1954 Opening Day [8]
1955 Opening Day
1955 World Series Ebbets Field
1956 Opening Day Griffith Stadium
1958 Opening Day
1958 All-Star Game Richard Nixon (Vice President) Memorial Stadium The catcher was Gus Triandos.[16]
1959 Opening Day Griffith Stadium Eisenhower did not attend and was represented by Nixon.
1959 All-Star Game Forbes Field Nixon threw the pitch at the first of that season's two All-Star Games.[17]
1959 Old-Timers' Day Herbert Hoover (former President)^ Yankee Stadium [18]
1960 Opening Day Dwight D. Eisenhower Griffith Stadium [8]
1961 Opening Day John F. Kennedy
1961 Old-Timers' Day Herbert Hoover (former President)^ Yankee Stadium [18]
1962 Opening Day John F. Kennedy D.C. Stadium The recently constructed D.C. Stadium would later be renamed the RFK Stadium after Kennedy's brother Robert F. Kennedy in 1969.[10]
1962 All-Star Game All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.
1963 Opening Day [8]
1964 Opening Day Lyndon B. Johnson Set a record for most hot dogs eaten by a president on Opening Day: four.[8]
1965 Opening Day [19]: 195 
1966 Opening Day Hubert Humphrey (Vice President)*
1966 All-Star Game Busch Memorial Stadium The temperature at the start of the game was 100 °F (38 °C). Humphrey left the ballpark shortly after the pitch.[20]
1967 Opening Day Lyndon B. Johnson D.C. Stadium [8]
1968 Opening Day Hubert Humphrey (Vice President)* Due to low approval, Humphrey attended in-place of Johnson amidst public unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.[21]
1969 Opening Day Richard Nixon RFK Stadium Nixon requested the presidential seal to be mounted on his box, causing embarrassment when the seal provided had "president" misspelled.[8][10]
1969 All-Star Game Spiro Agnew (Vice President) Richard Nixon was scheduled to throw out the first pitch but was unable to attend after the game was postponed by rain. Agnew threw one pitch to National League catcher Johnny Bench and one pitch to American League catcher Bill Freehan.[22]
1970 All-Star Game Richard Nixon Riverfront Stadium All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Ohio.[8]
1973 Opening Day Anaheim Stadium First Opening Day presidential first pitch outside of Washington, D.C.[8]
1976 Opening Day Gerald Ford Arlington Stadium [8]
1976 All-Star Game Veterans Stadium Ford threw two pitches (with the first from his right hand and the second from his left) from the stands, one to a representative from the National League and the other to a representative from the American League.[8][23]
1979 World Series Jimmy Carter Memorial Stadium Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey playfully yelled, "Next time, get your ass here before the seventh game," in reference to Carter skipping the Opening Day.[8]
1981 All-Star Game George H. W. Bush (Vice President) Cleveland Stadium Bush had hoped he would be pitching to Carlton Fisk but a 13-year-old fan was picked out of the crowd to serve as catcher.[24]
1984 Opening Day Ronald Reagan Memorial Stadium Reagan made an unannounced trip to Baltimore, after it was initially cancelled for security reasons. He watched the game from the third-base dugout.[10][25]
1986 Opening Day [8]
1986 All-Star Game George H. W. Bush (Vice President) Astrodome Bush's second All-Star Game. The catcher was Gary Carter.[26]
1988 All-Star Game Riverfront Stadium [27]
September 30, 1988 (Regular Season) Ronald Reagan Wrigley Field Reagan threw two pitches prior to the Chicago CubsPittsburgh Pirates game on September 30, then joined Harry Caray for 1½ innings on the WGN telecast.[9][10]
1989 Opening Day George H. W. Bush Memorial Stadium President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was Bush's special guest, but did not partake in the pregame ceremonies. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 5–4 in 11 innings.[8][28]
April 25, 1989 (Regular Season) Anaheim Stadium [19]: 196 
June 28, 1989 (Regular Season) Memorial Stadium
1989 Japan Series Ronald Reagan (former President)^ Tokyo Dome Game 3 between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants.[29]
1990 Opening Day George H. W. Bush SkyDome First Opening Day pitch by a president to be thrown in Canada.[8]
May 24, 1990 (Regular Season) Dan Quayle (Vice President)* Wrigley Field
July 16, 1990 (Regular Season) George H. W. Bush Memorial Stadium [19]: 196 
1991 Opening Day Arlington Stadium [8]
Dan Quayle (Vice President)* Memorial Stadium Final Opening Day at Memorial Stadium
1992 Opening Day George H. W. Bush Oriole Park at Camden Yards First MLB game at Camden Yards.[8][10] Bush was joined by his 15-year-old grandson, George P. Bush.[19]: 196 
1992 All-Star Game Jack Murphy Stadium Threw first pitch with Ted Williams.[19]: 196 
1992 World Series Jimmy Carter (former President)^ Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium
1993 Opening Day Bill Clinton Oriole Park at Camden Yards Before this, most presidents threw from the stands or at the base of the pitcher's mound; Clinton was the first president to successfully throw from the pitcher's mound to the catcher.[8][10]
Al Gore (Vice President)* Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
1994 Opening Day Bill Clinton Jacobs Field First MLB Game at Jacobs Field.[8]
1995 World Series Jimmy Carter (former President)^ Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium [8]
1996 Opening Day Bill Clinton Oriole Park at Camden Yards
1997 Opening Day Shea Stadium
2000 Opening Day Pacific Bell Park
George W. Bush (as Governor of Texas) The Ballpark in Arlington Future 43rd president
2001 Opening Day George W. Bush Miller Park MLB Commissioner Bud Selig (a former owner of the Brewers) threw out the first pitch to celebrate the opening of the new park; Bush threw the second pitch.[8]
2001 World Series Yankee Stadium This was the first World Series game in New York since the September 11 attacks; Bush wore a bulletproof vest and a Secret Service agent dressed as an umpire so he could be on the field.[8]
2003 Opening Day George H. W. Bush (former President)^ Great American Ball Park [27]
2004 Opening Day Jimmy Carter (former President)^ Petco Park First MLB Game at Petco Park
George W. Bush Busch Memorial Stadium [8]
Dick Cheney (Vice President)* Great American Ball Park
2005 Opening Day George W. Bush RFK Stadium 2005 was the Nationals' first season, making Bush the first president to throw out first pitch in Washington since Richard Nixon in 1969.[8]
2005 American League Championship Series Barack Obama (as United States Senator from Illinois) U.S. Cellular Field Future 44th president
2006 Opening Day George W. Bush Great American Ball Park First sitting president to participate on Opening Day in Cincinnati; preceded Reds–Cubs game on April 3.[8][9]
Dick Cheney (Vice President)* RFK Stadium
August 18, 2006 (Regular Season) Donald Trump (future President) Fenway Park Trump, who would become the 45th president, threw out the first pitch before the nightcap of a doubleheader to publicize The Jimmy Fund.[8]
2008 Opening Day George W. Bush Nationals Park This was the first pitch in new stadium. Bush also participated in ESPN's TV broadcast of the game and called the ballpark's first home run, hit by the Braves' Chipper Jones in the 4th inning.[8]
2009 Opening Day George W. Bush (former President)^ Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Bush had owned the Texas Rangers in the early 1990s.
Joe Biden (Vice President) Oriole Park at Camden Yards Future 46th president
2009 All-Star Game Barack Obama Busch Stadium [8]
2009 Japan Series George W. Bush (former President)^ Tokyo Dome Game 3 between the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Yomiuri Giants.
2010 Opening Day Barack Obama Nationals Park 100th anniversary of the first Presidential Opening Day ceremonial first pitch.[8]
2010 World Series George W. Bush (former President)^ Rangers Ballpark in Arlington First World Series home game in franchise history; former President Bush - who owned the Rangers when the stadium was built - was accompanied to the mound by his father, George H. W. Bush, and Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan.
2011 College World Series TD Ameritrade Park Omaha This pitch marked the first game at the new home of the College World Series, replacing the nearby Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Before Bush threw out the first pitch, his father, who played for Yale in the first CWS in 1947, delivered a video message christening the new stadium. He is the first President to have thrown ceremonial first pitches for amateur and professional (both North America and Japanese) championship matches.[30]
2011 World Series Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
2015 American League Division Series George H. W. Bush (former President)^ Minute Maid Park Bush, aged 91, accompanied by his wife Barbara and in a wheelchair with a neck brace, threw the Houston Astros' first pitch at Game 3 of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals.[31]
2017 World Series George W. Bush (former President)^ Bush was accompanied and given the first pitch ball by his father, George H. W. Bush.
May 20, 2021 (NCAA regular season) O'Brate Stadium Bush was scheduled to throw the first pitch upon the opening of O'Brate Stadium in 2020 but the opening was delayed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[32]
2023 World Series Globe Life Field Bush threw the first pitch to Iván Rodríguez.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b Brown, Peter Jensen (3 September 2016). "President Taft, Governor McKinley and the "Lucky Seventh" Inning – the History and Origins of the Ceremonial "First Pitch" and the "Seventh Inning Stretch"". Early Sports 'n' Pop-Culture History Blog. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Governor McKinley Started It". Omaha Daily Bee. April 17, 1892. p. 2.
  3. ^ "American Baseball Team is Victorious". Los Angeles Herald. November 23, 1908. p. 6.
  4. ^ "Governor's Pitch Draws Fine," United Press International (UPI), Wednesday, November 7, 1979. Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  5. ^ Durrett, Richard (April 24, 2012). "Ivan Rodriguez announces retirement". ESPN. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  6. ^ "Dr. Fauci's First Pitch Was an Instant Classic".
  7. ^ Duggan, Paul (April 2, 2007). "Balking at the First Pitch". The Washington Post. p. A01.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay Wulf, Steve (April 3, 2017). "From Taft to Trump: Scouting presidential first pitches". ESPN. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Wallner, Jeff. "President Bush tosses Opening pitch",, Monday, April 3, 2006
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Glass, Andrew (April 9, 2019). "JFK throws out first pitch on opening day, April 9, 1962". Politico. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Beschloss, Michael (October 24, 2014). "The President Attends the World Series". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  12. ^ President Woodrow Wilson Baseball Game Attendance Log Baseball Almanac
  13. ^ Walsh, Tom (March 30, 2017). "President Hoover's torrid love affair ... with baseball". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  14. ^ D. Treese, Joel. "President Herbert Hoover and Baseball". The White House Historical Association. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  15. ^ "President Franklin Roosevelt Baseball Game Attendance Log". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  16. ^ "All Star Game Highlights". The York Dispatch. 9 July 1958. p. 17. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  17. ^ "Richard Nixon throws out the first pitch at the 1959 All-Star Game". The Daily Sentinel. Associated Press. 7 July 1959. p. 6. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Old Timers' Day, New York Yankees Stadium, August 8, 1959". Hoover Heads. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. August 16, 2017. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  19. ^ a b c d e Mead, William B.; Dickson, Paul (1 April 1997). Baseball: The Presidents' Game. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-0-8027-7515-3. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  20. ^ Endsley, Brian M. (16 April 2018). Koufax Throws a Curve: The Los Angeles Dodgers at the End of an Era, 1964-1966. McFarland. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-4766-6942-7. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  21. ^ Allen, Scott (March 29, 2018). "Fifty years ago, Nats' Opening Day was postponed after assassination of Martin Luther King Jr". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  22. ^ Weiner, Steven C. "July 23, 1969: Willie McCovey's two homers power National League to All-Star win". SABR. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  23. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "1976 AL@NL: President Ford throws out first pitch". YouTube.
  24. ^ Boswell, Thomas (10 August 1981). "Bush brings baseball back with a slider". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Washington Post News Services. p. 28. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  25. ^ Putzel, Michael (April 3, 1984). "Reagan Makes A Surprise Visit". Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  26. ^ "Bush becomes most recent VP to toss 1st pitch". Democrat and Chronicle. Associated Press. 16 July 1986. p. 10. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  27. ^ a b Stupp, Dann (2003). Opening Day at Great American Ball Park. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-58261-724-4. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  28. ^ Dowd, Maureen, "Bush Takes Mubarak Out to the Ball Game" The New York Times, Tuesday, April 4, 1989
  29. ^ Thurber, David (October 24, 1989). "Reagan Throws First Pitch in Japan, Nearly Hits Batter". Associated Press. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  30. ^ "Vanderbilt opens College World Series, new stadium with win". ESPN. Associated Press. June 18, 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  31. ^ "Pres. George H.W. Bush, 91, throws out first pitch at Royals-Astros game (+video)". October 12, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  32. ^ Unruh, Jacob (May 21, 2021). "'He made us feel special': How George W. Bush's first pitch impacted Oklahoma State baseball". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  33. ^ "Ex-President Bush throws 1st pitch to Pudge Rodriguez before Game 1". ESPN. Associated Press. 28 October 2023. Retrieved 31 October 2023.

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