All the presidents’ delightfully awkward first pitches
April 6, 2015 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Photographs of America’s most powerful men throwing the ceremonial first pitch gives some indication of why they got into politics. via NPR's Tumblr
posted by sacrifix (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
George Bush. I have tears of laughter.

I thought it was weird they were all wearing suit pants. Then I got to Obama. His jeans/windbreaker combo is so goofy!
posted by hot_monster at 7:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like Barack Obama's Mom jeans.
posted by Nevin at 7:49 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing that can be said for George W. Bush: when threw out the first pitch in the 3rd game of the 2001 World Series, he actually threw a no kidding around strike.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was kinder when they let them throw from the stands but way funnier when they're out on the field. Someone please Photoshop a tutu onto the elder Bush. Wheeee!
posted by BoscosMom at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2015


Yeah, why did we start having the prez throw an actual pitch from the mound instead of just lobbing a ball from the front row? That seems more appropriate for the average president's skill set.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Throwing from the stands is more dignified.
They should have let Gerald Ford throw from the mound. He looks like he's having the time of his life.
posted by hot_monster at 8:02 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lefty presidents:
Truman
Bush Sr.
Clinton
Obama
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yes, judging by form alone, W. appears to be the only one who ever toed a rubber in his life.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:12 PM on April 6, 2015


Truman was left-handed, but he had it beaten out of him in grammar school, so he wrote with his right hand and doesn't often make it onto the lists of left-handed presidents. Interesting to see that he used his dominant hand for throwing.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:16 PM on April 6, 2015


Fittingly, JFK's arm and body position look much closer to the motion of tossing a pigskin, no doubt from all those games of touch football he played with his brothers out on Cape Cod.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:21 PM on April 6, 2015


Nixon is visible right behind Eisenhower's head, looking young and uncharacteristically starry-eyed. Compare with the picture of his own pitch, only twelve years later, for a good illustration of what the intervening decade was like for him. (Also in the Eisenhower photo, perhaps the best bystander facial expression in this treasure trove of wonderful bystander facial expressions is on the middle-aged woman near the upper left corner.)

This photo series is also a good summary of the decline and fall of men's hats.
posted by ostro at 8:33 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nixon was a knuckleballer. Couldn't throw it straight even if he tried. Was tough to nail, but if you connected, you could knock it out of the park.
posted by not_on_display at 8:35 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yes, judging by form alone, W. appears to be the only one who ever toed a rubber in his life.

Interestingly I think GHW Bush who looks the worst of the lot was actually a college baseball player. GW on the other hand was just a cheerleader.
posted by srboisvert at 8:35 PM on April 6, 2015


GW also played baseball in college.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:41 PM on April 6, 2015


Castro almost went pro. True story.
posted by Bonzai at 8:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Canadian tangent

Robert Stanfield: The picture they didn't print. The picture they did print.
posted by mazola at 10:13 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ Nixon had a huge noggin. The picture actually just looks like a cartoon Nixon bobblehead.
posted by threeants at 10:27 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Life imitates art, Mazola.
posted by sacrifix at 10:28 PM on April 6, 2015


A LOT of empty seats in the Hoover years compared to every other President.
posted by tracicle at 10:42 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


A left handed sitting President has never been defeated by a right handed challenger. Except possibly Gerald Ford who said he was ambidextrous. Some hVe suggested that Reagan was left handed, but was forced to write with his right hand as was the custom in the old days. In 1992 and 2008 all major candidates were left handed. Rand Paul is the only well known left handed major party candidate for 2016.
posted by humanfont at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2015


No picture of Taft! He was the first.
posted by unliteral at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2015


Yeah, why did we start having the prez throw an actual pitch from the mound instead of just lobbing a ball from the front row?
John Drebinger of The New York Times (subscription required) used the words "battle" and "skirmish" to describe the chase after Roosevelt's first ball at the '37 All-Star Game. That's no overstatement, as Steve Wulf of Sports Illustrated once wrote that players would elbow and shove each other to get at the ball.

At first, the president always threw from the stands. And though Taft started the tradition by aiming his first ball at Walter Johnson, things evolved to where the first ball was thrown into a rabble of players who would scramble to own such a cherished souvenir.

According to Wulf, the "scrambling era" met its demise during Richard Nixon's administration, just in time to save players from additional injury risk at a time when salaries were due to skyrocket with the arrival of free agency in the mid-1970s.
Quotes from my [Taft] link.
posted by unliteral at 11:51 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


That picture of Taft is one of the strangest things I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their walrus into their baseball game, or why.
posted by sacrifix at 11:52 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


God damn but Taft looks like a jovial motherfucker.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:54 AM on April 7, 2015


Hmm, does Carter dislike baseball?
posted by FJT at 1:03 AM on April 7, 2015


Overall impressions: Taft is there for the ceremony, Wilson is having fun, Harding is drunk, Coolidge is stoically resigned to being surrounded by people having fun.

FDR would prefer to just watch the game, Kennedy's trying his best despite the pain of his back brace, LBJ's showing his buddies "This is how you throw the first pitch"

Nixon is petrified of fucking up the pitch, Ford wishes he could be down in the clubhouse, Reagan's trying to do his best imitation of a pitcher's grimace, Pappa Bush is happy but has no idea what he is doing, Bill's going at it with gusto, W. actually knows what he's doing, Barack is terrified of messing it up.

So apparently W. was the best POTUS, in one regards: throwing the first pitch.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 1:08 AM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


We're observing the presidents' attitude towards their throw not the quality of the throw. So we don't know that W was the best POTUS. We do know that he felt confident that he was the best.
posted by rdr at 1:34 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


The picture of George Bush pére looks like Sidd Finch.
posted by chavenet at 1:47 AM on April 7, 2015


LeRoienJaune: "So apparently W. was the best POTUS, in one regards: throwing the first pitch."

I hate that W. was the best at anything other than sucking. He sure did suck. It'll take the USA 100 yrs or so to recover. H.W. looks, shall we say, a little awkward, but he was light years ahead of his spoiled brat kid as a president.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:08 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


No picture of Taft! He was the first.

He was also the first picture in the article...?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:43 AM on April 7, 2015


Suits and ties as far as the eye can see in most of the photos, but lots of men in shirtsleeves in the 1929 photo of Hoover. Particularly hot day?
posted by uncleozzy at 4:44 AM on April 7, 2015


That picture of Taft is one of the strangest things I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their walrus into their baseball game, or why/

You don't know why people would bring a walrus to a baseball game? Because it would be effing delightful, that's why.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:22 AM on April 7, 2015


I'm pretty useless at pitching myself. I throw like a president.
posted by iotic at 5:32 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


LeRoienJaune: "Coolidge is stoically resigned to being surrounded by people having fun."

RIGHT???

But I don't think these are actually that bad as first pitches ... a lot of them are just caught in a funny pose mid-pitch. Maybe I just spent too long looking through rejected sports photos when I worked at a newspaper; most of them don't look like particularly odd poses for pitchers (other than GHWB's amusing pirouette, which still may not have been that weird in motion, but is great as a frozen moment) or people tossing a ball overhand (for the older ones). Here, have some video.

It is a SURPRISINGLY LONG DISTANCE to throw, and conventional wisdom is that it's better to throw a bit of a toss rather than trying for a direct fast-ball-type pitch that's fast and accurate enough to get over the plate ... a lot of ceremonial pitchers who try for a good-looking "pitch" end up with it in the dirt six feet in front of the plate.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:35 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]




Except possibly Gerald Ford who said he was ambidextrous.

Ford is also the only one who seems to have a baseball in each hand. Alas, he is not throwing them both simultaneously.

God damn but Taft looks like a jovial motherfucker.

As well, you can see why he rose to prominence in public life: he is much higher contrast than anyone around him. Of COURSE the eye is drawn to him.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:17 AM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Came for the photo of a a deeply awkward Calvin Coolidge; was not disappointed.

Also, wow, you can absolutely see that JFK had back troubles. That is one uncomfortable-looking man.
posted by kalimac at 6:51 AM on April 7, 2015


Hmm, does Carter dislike baseball?

Carter did a number of first pitches, including at least one season-opener.
posted by beagle at 8:17 AM on April 7, 2015


Overall impressions: Taft is there for the ceremony, Wilson is having fun, Harding is drunk, Coolidge is stoically resigned to being surrounded by people having fun.

Wasn't Harding pretty much always drunk?
posted by emjaybee at 9:28 AM on April 7, 2015


Henceforth we will no longer criticize someone "throwing like a girl". The new phrase is "throwing like President Harding". Me, I aspire to be a Harry Truman.
posted by Nelson at 9:37 AM on April 7, 2015


I'm finding myself more fascinated by the spectators' clothing choices than the pitches themselves. I didn't grow up in the US, and so I don't have a good sense of when these changes happened (and am just shy of 30 so I wouldn't have lived through the changes anyway), but when exactly did the shift from suits and ties to casual jeans and sports jackets at ball games happen? Some time between 1976 and 1988 judging from the pictures, but it seems so sudden. I would have expected to see more casual clothing in the 1976 photo.
posted by peacheater at 9:37 AM on April 7, 2015


I'm finding myself more fascinated by the spectators' clothing choices than the pitches themselves. I didn't grow up in the US, and so I don't have a good sense of when these changes happened (and am just shy of 30 so I wouldn't have lived through the changes anyway), but when exactly did the shift from suits and ties to casual jeans and sports jackets at ball games happen? Some time between 1976 and 1988 judging from the pictures, but it seems so sudden. I would have expected to see more casual clothing in the 1976 photo.

Well, bear in mind that up until the Ford picture, the POTUS is in the stands and I am sure even in a relatively informal age people who were going to be sitting two or three rows back from the prez may have gotten gussied up for the occasion. As well, I am sure -- especially in the later photos -- some of the people in suit and ties are security detail; I have no other ready explanation for the dude in the Eisenhower photo directly behind Nixon facing away from the action. And while we think of Secret Service guys as wearing dark suits and sunglasses, it pleases me to imagine the unsmiling man a step behind Hoover seemingly scanning the crowd suspiciously as a security detail man with an incongruously jaunty skimmer.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:56 AM on April 7, 2015


Strange that women seem to have disappeared from the presidential box post WWII. I like that Roosevelt has a cheerful little girl next to him. That seems more properly baseball to me than a passel of government dudes.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:23 AM on April 7, 2015


No picture of Taft! He was the first.

He was also the first picture in the article...?


…that I posted. He wasn't in the original post.
posted by unliteral at 12:15 PM on April 7, 2015


What? No, he's in the very first picture in the original post, captioned "June 9, 1910 | President Taft tosses out the first pitch. (Corbis)"
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:46 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


So he is. My bad.
posted by unliteral at 1:40 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


A LOT of empty seats in the Hoover years compared to every other President.

Everyone is home eating chicken.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:51 PM on April 7, 2015


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