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When President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at the 2001 World Series, the moment not only continued a Presidential tradition, but it symbolized America's desire to continue life undeterred after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
President George W. Bush's love of baseball began during his childhood in Midland, Texas, where he played Little League Baseball and dreamed of following in the footsteps of baseball great, Willie Mays. President Bush's love of the game continued. Before serving as President of the United States and Governor of Texas, President Bush was a managing partner for the Major League Baseball Team, the Texas Rangers. President Bush's life-long affection for the game led him to open the South Lawn of the White House to t-ball players in the Spring of 2001. The White House t-ball tradition is continuing this spring as children learn the great lessons of team sports: following the rules, respecting other players, and supporting teammates.
From throwing to catching and fielding to batting, America's Presidents have long enjoyed playing or watching a good game of baseball. A soldier's diary reveals that George Washington and his men played an early version of baseball called "rounders" on the fields of Valley Forge. History records that John Adams played bat and ball and Andrew Jackson played a similar game of baseball called one old cat. Abraham Lincoln's love of the game was so well known that an 1860 political cartoon showed Lincoln and his opponents on a baseball diamond.
Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, was so thrilled to be invited to see the first game played among teams from different states, that he gave his White House staff time off from work to go to the game. Johnson set up chairs for his staff along the first base line of the White Lot, an area located between the South Lawn of the White House and an incomplete Washington Monument that stood only 152 feet tall. Today, the area is called the Ellipse, and energetic federal staffers play softball games on the grounds each spring in the shadows of the towering, 555-foot Washington Monument.
Ulysses S. Grant was President when the National League was formed in 1876, but Benjamin Harrison became the first President to attend a major league game when he saw Cincinnati beat Washington 7-4 on June 6, 1892.
The 20th Century ushered in a Presidential and baseball tradition: throwing out the first pitch. William Howard Taft was the first President to do the honors when he threw a ball from his seat in the stands to the Washington Senator's opening day pitcher, Walter Johnson, on April 14, 1910. Nearly all Presidents since Taft have followed this pitching tradition. Woodrow Wilson turned a few heads when he brought Edith Gault to the World Series. The event was the first public appearance of the couple since announcing their engagement. The following spring, Wilson threw out the first pitch on opening day with Mrs. Wilson at his side.
Franklin Roosevelt made a significant decision when he encouraged Major League Baseball to continue playing ball during World War II. Roosevelt knew that continuing this popular past-time during wartime would boost the spirits of the American people.
Ronald Reagan so loved the game that he worked as a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs. His success gave him the opportunity to go into acting, where he once played the part of a pitcher in the movie, The Winning Team.
From George Washington to George W. Bush, Presidents over the years have shown their love of the game and baseball has loved their highest-ranking fan.
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