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President Taft throwing out the first ball to open the baseball season in 1912. Harm & Ewing Photo. The Season's Opener Is the Game for Presidents By BURTON HAWKINS t'OR PITCHING PERFEC " TION, no local opening day baseball game ever has matched the performance un leashed by the late Walter Johnson in the presence of William Howard Taft in 1910, the first time the President of the United States threw out a ball to launch the major league season. There have been more dramatic opening day episodes here, but John son’s one-hit pitching against the Philadelphia Athletics on that occasion hasn’t been equaled for artistry. On that brisk April day Johnson’s bid for a no-hit game was spoiled when Wash ington’s right fielder, Doc Gessler, stumbled over a spectator sprawled on the grass while chasing an easy looper off the bat of Home Run Baker in the seventh inning. The ball fell safely for a double. Johnson and Taft ex changed thrills that day, for in beating the Athletics, 3-0, the Nats’ big right-hander displayed pitching wizardry to the President, and in re turn received a baseball auto graphed by him. In 36 opening day games since President Taft bestowed his blessing on baseball, 13 have been shutouts and five of those were 1-0 contests. The Nats won eight of the shutouts, due chiefly to the presence of Johnson, who was the winning pitcher in six of them. Bobo Newsom and A1 Crowder were other Nat pitchers with shutouts Johnson, who won nine opening day games, dom inates any discussion of base ball inaugurals here. In addi tion to his one-hit game he registered a two-hitter, a three-hitter and a four-hitter. Other pitchers who have sparkled on opening day are Lefty Grove, who pitched a two-hit game; Red Ruffing and Marius Russo, who tossed three-hitters, and Newsom, who hurled a four-hitter. Johnson’s most dramatic opening day victory was achieved in 1926, when he locked with Philadelphia’s Ed Rommel in a pitching duel that traveled 15 innings be fore the Nats won, 1-0* on Bucky Harris’ single. Goose Goslin's double and Joe Har ri ingle. bably the most pulsat ing performance by a Nat, however, was the 1936 open ing day pitching of Newsom, when he beat the New York Yankees, 1-0, on four hits. Near-tragedy struck New som in the fifth inning of that game. The Yankees’ Ben Chapman bunted down the third-base line, and Ossie Bluege pounced on the ball like a cat. The play called for a hard, lightning throw, almost blind, and Newsom, standing directly in the path of Bluege’s throw, forgot to duck. The ball thudded against Bobo’s jaw, just be low the ear. President Roosevelt dropped his bag of peanuts and sat transfixed as Newsom, semi delirious in pain, staggered about the infield. Bobo re turned to the mound and was rewarded for his brilliant pitching when Cecil Travis’ single and Carl Reynolds’ double in the ninth inning defeated Lefty Gomez. The Nats do very well in the presidential presence. Twenty-five times in 37 years, the Chief Executive has tossed out the first ball, and Wash ington has won 15 of those 25 games. Seven times Vice Presidents have thrown out the first ball, while the as signment has been given lesser dignitaries on other occasions. From the Nats’ standpoint. President Wilson was the champion. He flipped the first ball three times, and three times the Nats won. Taft also had a perfect record in two appearances. With Pres ident Coolidge in the flag draped box the Nats won three of four games, and they won two of the three times President Harding officiated. President Roosevelt had a 4-4 record-in opening day assign ments, while Hoover jinxed the Nats three out of four times, and President Truman saw the Nats lose last year. The widespread belief that Clark Griffith inaugurated the custom of inviting the Presi dent to throw out the first ball on opening day is er roneous. President Taft start ed the now established pro cedure two years before Grif fith became affiliated with the Washington club. President Wilson was the most enthusiastic baseball fan among White House res idents, frequently attending during the regular season. President Coolidge was the least interested, once leaving an opening day game after the first inning. And to those who play hunches this may have sig nificance: The Nats have won three pennants—in 1924, 1925 and 1933—and on opening day in each of those years Washington won its first game.