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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, April 13, 1947, Image 127

Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1947-04-13/ed-1/seq-127/

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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.

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