Tradition–Ceremonial First Pitch
Guest post by John Haas, Archivist, Ohio History Connection
President William Howard Taft, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first sitting President to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball season opener on April 14, 1910. The Washington Nationals were playing the Philadelphia Athletics in Washington, D.C. President Taft also opened the 1911 season for a Washington Nationals game, but Vice President James S. Sherman did the honor in 1912. President W.H. Taft attended 14 Major League games between 1909 and 1912 and seven of those were out of Washington, D.C.
Baseball could be considered a Taft family business. The President’s brother, Charles P. Taft, had a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs beginning in 1906 and later in 1910 purchased the Philadelphia Phillies stadium. In 1908 candidate W.H. Taft took part in a pickup game of baseball between his campaign staff and the press corps. His son Charley, tagged his father out and doubled off Senator Beveridge on his way to second base. Candidate Taft’s team, the Steam Rollers, went on to win by three runs.
Numerous elected officials and dignitaries threw out “first pitches” before 1910, but Taft was the first to do it as a sitting President at a Major League Season opener. Future President, Ohio Governor William McKinley, is noted as attending a season opener on April 16, 1892 in Columbus for the game between the Toledo Black Pirates and Columbus Reds of the Western League. According to the Omaha Daily Bee, April 17, 1892, page 2, after a parade and band concert: “…… and Governor McKinley threw the ball into the diamond.” President Warren G. Harding, of Ohio, threw out season opening ceremonial first pitches in 1921, 1922 and 1923.
Tradition— Score Card and Program
We have many examples of score cards and programs in our collection that have been donated or purchased by us over the years. Small Picture Collection SC 192 contains one from about 1911 or later. The painting, “Safe!”, was by J.F. Ernan, is a simjple scorecard but colorful.
The Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox played in the soon to be famous “Black Sox” World Series of 1919. Eight White Sox players were eventually banned from baseball for life for possibly throwing the World Series and taking bribes from gamblers. The score card below is a Cincinnati card with a picture of Redland Field and a team photograph.