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White House

Opening Day in Washington: Baseball and the Presidency Through the Years

photo of Michael Catalini
March 29, 2013

With the Nationals home opener today, it's a good time to take a closer look at the Federal City and its mixed history with baseball.

(RELATED: Graphic Showing Number of Opening Day Pitches Thrown by Presidents

Presidents have been drawn to the game, throwing out first pitches and focusing the nation’s attention on the annual rite of spring in the capital. However, for three decades, they had to go elsewhere to throw out the Opening Day pitch, as Washington was left without a team of its own after the Senators left town. 

Here’s a look at Washington baseball history, viewed through the lens of the country's chief executive.

William Howard Taft began a tradition that extends to the present day when he took the mound in Washington in 1910 and lobbed a ball into the catcher's mitt. Every president since Taft, except Jimmy Carter, has thrown out at least one ceremonial first pitch while in office.(AP Photo)

Woodrow Wilson threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in Washington on April 20, 1916. The Senators beat the Yankees, 12-4. The Senators played their home games at Griffith Stadium, near where Howard University Hospital stands today. When World War I began to occupy Wilson’s attention, he attended fewer Opening Day ceremonies, missing those from 1917 through 1920.

Warren Harding, who loved the game and owned a baseball team in Ohio, threw out the first pitch in Washington in 1921. The Senators lost to the Red Sox, 6-3.(AP Photo)


Dwight Eisenhower, who played on the junior varsity baseball team at West Point, threw the first pitch on April 18, 1960, with Vice President Richard Nixon (left) watching. The Senators went on to pummel the Red Sox, 10-1.(AP Photo)

John F. Kennedy threw out the first pitch at the new D.C. Stadium in April 1961, which was renamed RFK Stadium while Richard Nixon was president.(AP Photo)

About five months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson carried on the presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch in 1964. Rightie Johnson tossed the ball before a game between the Senators and the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels won, 4-0.(AP Photo)


Richard Nixon was the first president to throw out a first pitch in the rechristened Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The Yankees defeated the Senators, 8-4.

Washington didn't have a baseball team for more than three decades, from 1971 until the Nationals took up residence in 2005. During that hiatus, presidents frequently journeyed the 38 miles north to Baltimore, Md., to throw the ceremonial first pitch for the Orioles, first at Memorial Stadium and later Camden Yards. Bill Clinton threw out the first pitch in 1996 at Camden Yards.(AP Photo/ Roberto Borea)

George W. Bush was the first sitting president to deliver the Opening Day pitch at the Nationals’ new ballpark. Bush has a deep connection to baseball: In 1989, he purchased a stake in the Texas Rangers and took an active role in aspects of club management.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)


President Obama, a White Sox fan, threw out the first pitch at Opening Day in 2010, when the Nationals played the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

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