Friday, August 5, 2011

Politics and Baseball

This is a new blog covering my two favorite subjects.  In case you have not guessed yet, they would be America's national pastime, baseball, and America's second favorite indoor sport, politics.

In 1889, an editorial in the New York Sun read,

"...all statesmen of any aspirations for the future to consider that if they have not yet recorded themselves as lovers of our national game or some other sporting interest, they should do so immediately." 

Indeed, nearly every president from Abraham Lincoln (R-IL) to George W. Bush (R-TX) has embraced the game in some fashion.  Andrew Johnson (D-TN) was an avid follower of the Washington Nationals, a top amateur team during the 1860's (it is said that Johnson often allowed government clerks and staffers to be excused early to attend games).

Richard Nixon (R-CA), loved baseball and reportedly was offered the commissioner's job after he lost the 1960 presidential election to Kennedy. While most presidents confined their baseball playing to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the season (William Howard Taft [R-OH] initiated the tradition in 1910 and attended 14 games during his presidency...not all in Washington, DC), some, like George H.W. Bush (R-TX) and Woodrow Wilson (D-NJ) enjoyed reputations as solid players during their college days. Bush played first base on the Yale Eastern Championship teams of '47 and '48 that went to the first two College World Series (nipped by California 8-7 and crushed by Southern Cal 9-2) and was one of those rare players who threw left-handed and batted right-handed.  Wilson, despite being an unrepentant hypochondriac, played centerfield for Davidson College, but was later unable to crack the varsity squad after transferring to Princeton.

Politicians of lesser prominence have also been unabashed fans of the game or have been drawn into the game in a more official capacity. Following the death of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis in late 1944, Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, the Democrat junior senator from Kentucky, resigned his Senate seat in 1945 upon his appoint as Commissioner of Baseball . Chandler presided over the breaking of baseball's color line in 1947 and allowed the players to establish a pension plan. After his tenure as Commissioner ended, he returned to Kentucky and won another term as Governor.  Ironically, considering today's debate in DC, Chandler was a strong fiscal conservative that disagreed with most of the New Deal, and he would have almost assuredly be a Republican today.

The high name recognition and competitive nature of ballplayers has helped some former players begin a career in politics after their retirement. Among contemporary player/politicians, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning (R-KY) has enjoyed the greatest success, first as a member of the Kentucky legislature and later as a member of the House and Senate.  Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson was a lifelong Republican and Montgomery County, MD commissioner and later ran for Congress.  Harry Davis, star of the Philadelphia Athletics club (1895-1917), was a Philadelphia city councilman during his career.

So, I will be blogging about my two favorite subjects.  What I blog about may change daily, or may blend the topics.  One word of warning, though.  I intend for this to stimulate reasonable discourse, not negative sniping and insulting the opinions of me and others here.  Do it, and you will be stricken from the record.  Reasonable people can disagree and still get along.

Unless the discussion involves the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I'm kidding.  Really.

"In baseball, when they say you're out, you're out. It's the same way in politics." - Gerald Ford (R-MI)

"The game of baseball is a clean, straight game." - William Howard Taft (R-OH)

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