Tag: traditions

The Ceremonial First Pitch: The Good, The Bad and The History

The Ceremonial First Pitch has been longstanding the MLB, but most fans don’t know how or why it started.

Contrary to popular belief, the first well known ceremonial “First Pitch” actually occurred in Japan in 1908 when Okuma Shigenobu, the former Japanese Prime Minister and founder of Waseda University took the ball in his hands and tossed it to the catcher.

The team playing against the Japanese host collegian team just so happened to be a team from the US.

On opening day two years later, the big wig owner of the Washington Senators wanted the golden opportunity to socialize with politicians from the capital which included the current administration of President William Taft.

Before the game, the managers had been introduced and the home plate umpire handed the ball to Taft (who was an avid sports fan) and asked him to throw out the first pitch.

Little did the former President know, but he was setting the MLB up for a new tradition in Ceremonial First Pitches.

mlb ceremonial first pitch

From Baseball-Almanac.com:

 “Finally, the moment that would live on in baseball legend and lore had arrived. With all eyes on him, the 300-pound right-hander turned slightly and threw the ball to Walter Johnson.

Although the throw certainly lacked style or grace, Johnson managed to catch it, thus saving the President any embarrassment.

The crowd roared. It was no accident or errant pitch that sent the ball to Johnson. He later threw a no hitter leading up until the 7th and ultimately settled on a one-hitter.”

Bonus Fact: Taft also inspired another tradition and didn’t even know it, The 7th Inning Stretch

“As the game between the rival Senators and A’s wore on, Taft’s 350 lb. frame had become restless in his seat. The small wooden chairs at Griffith Stadium did not “sit” well with our porky President. And after the A’s batted in the top of the 7th, Taft stood up stretch his legs.

Thinking the President was making his exit, everyone else around the stadium stood up to show their respect for the Commander in Chief.

After a few minutes, Taft sat back down, as did the rest of the crowd, and the “seventh-inning-stretch” was born.” (PennLive.com)

Since 1910, almost every single President has thrown out a Ceremonial First Pitch while serving in office. The only President who never threw out a first pitch was Jimmy Carter.

jimmy carter mlb doesn't throw out first pitch

The only President in history to not throw out the Opening Day pitch during his tenure.

 

Regardless of Carter’s lack of contribution, some of the most memorable first pitch moments have come in our country’s greatest need.

Who can forget the World Series game at Yankee stadium right after 9/11 when former President George W. Bush came to the mound and threw a perfect strike down the middle.

That single pitch lifted an entire country in an instant. Like Bush or not, that’s the best thing he will ever be remembered for.

Take a moment to gather yourself because with as uplifting as Bush’s first pitch was, there have been countless others  that all you can do is just laugh and be thankful it’s not you making that terrible throw.

Awful notables include the Cincy Mayor that threw so horrible, the umpire actually threw him out of the game! Or Baba Booey’s throw that has actually been pretty good compared to the current Mets team outlook. They might want to pick him up pretty quick.

 

 

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