Sunday, April 14, 2013

MLB Tradition: Ceremonial First Pitch

We are at the beginning of another baseball season, which means traditions at the ballpark will be continuing.  Some traditions have been around for many decades such as the singing "Take Me Out at the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch and while others are relatively new like the mascot races in Milwaukee and Washington.  One such traditon started today back in 1910 - the ceremonial first pitch.

Washington Senators owner, Clark Griffith, was trying to think of ways to boost attendance and excitement for his struggling team.  By being located in the nation's capital, he thought he could get the president to help him out.  Griffith felt, if he enjoyed to the game, so should the average man.   Several presidents said no because they didn't want to take the time away from their regular duties.  Griffith finally got a yes from William Howard Taft.
He arrived at the ballpark with his vice president and secretary of state.  Taft agreed to throw a ceremonial first pitch from the stands to Senators' star pitcher Walter Johnson.  Taft enjoyed the game and the following day, it made headlines in newspapers across the country.  A public relations success for Mr. Griffith.  Taft returned for opening day in 1911 and had planned for 1912 also, but the sinking of the Titanic delayed his return until later in the season.
Since Taft, the ceremonial first pitch has evolved from being thrown from stands to the pitching mound and have been thrown by many celebrities and luminaries including every US president. 

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