On April 14, 1910, President William Howard Taft threw out the first pitch before the Philadelphia Athletics faced the Washington Nationals at National Park in Washington, DC. And with that, the presidential firs pitch was born.
Since that Opening Day pitch in 1910, every president has thrown least one ceremonial first pitch, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, although President Trump has yet to do so. And over the last 108 years, 18 US presidents have thrown out over 80 such ceremonial first pitches. Unfortunately, not all of those pitches were captured on film or survive to this day, but of those that exist, there is a huge range of talent displayed. So who were the good, bad, and downright pathetic? Take a look for yourself:
10. Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch before the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Nixon was a huge baseball fan, once quipping,”I don’t know a lot about politics, but I know a lot about baseball.” Apparently he never bothered learning how to pitch, though.
9. Barack Obama
On April 5, 2010, the ceremonial first pitch by a president celebrated 100 years with Barack Obama’s Opening Day pitch at Nationals Park. The White Sox fan once said that as president, “nothing is more stressful than throwing a first pitch.” And clearly the stress got to him that day.
8. Gerald Ford
Presidents didn’t always take to the field for the first pitch; they originally tossed a ball from the stands in a rather boring display. Although Gerald Ford’s opening throw before the 1976 All-Star Game loses points for being an unimpressive throw from the stands, we have to give him credit for tossing a ball from both his right and left hands.
7. Lyndon Johnson
While not a particularly good throw, we do appreciate LBJ’s IDGAF attitude and his haphazard “pitch” that sent the players scrambling before the Opening Day game at D.C. Stadium in 1964.
6. Ronald Reagan
President Reagan threw two pitches prior to the Chicago Cubs–Pittsburgh Pirates game on September 30, 1988. Sure, the catcher wasn’t that far away from him, but the fact that Reagan hung around afterwards and sat in with the legendary Harry Caray for 1½ innings earns the Gipper a few extra points.
5. Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton became the first president to throw from the mound all the way to the catcher for his 1993 Opening Day pitch, so while the throw itself wasn’t all that great, he gets some points just for having the balls to attempt an actual pitch. Apparently those balls shrunk the following year, when he opted to pitch a bit closer.
4. John F. Kennedy
Like other presidents of the era, Kennedy threw his first pitch at Opening Day 1963 from the stands. But JFK wasn’t content to simply toss the ball a few feet; the former high school pitcher practiced with a softball in the Rose Garden before throwing out the respectable pitch. If only we could have seen what he was capable of from the mound…
3. George H.W. Bush
As a first baseman at Yale, George H.W. Bush helped his team make it to the College World Series twice. Years later, he proved he still had those skills with a powerful and confident first pitch at Memorial Stadium for Opening Day 1989.
2. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter was a huge softball fan who often took part in games between his staff and the press corps during his White House tenure. In 1995, more than 14 years after leaving office, Carter showed off his skills with an incredible pitch before Game 6 of the World Series at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. Even more impressive? He was 71 at the time!
1. George W. Bush
On October 30, 2001, George W. Bush threw the first pitch before Game 3 of the World Series in New York. It was just a little more than month after the September 11 attacks and Bush knew he had to get the pitch right. Of the big pitch, Bush later said, “I can’t remember thinking, ‘If you don’t bounce it, that’ll lift their spirits.’ But I probably knew, instinctively, that a bounce would kind of reduce the defiance — the act of defiance toward the enemy.” And even with the pressure wearing a bulletproof vest and a Secret Service agent disguised as an ump, he didn’t bounce it.