After gathering material on this blog about Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and their connections to baseball, I figured I’d look at President Obama as well. The earliest story I found was this item from the Dubuque Telegraph World from the year after he became senator:
With the eyes of the world focused on Chicago this weekend – at least that part of the world that lives for baseball – Illinois’ U.S. senators are getting in on the action.
Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, Illinois’ two Democratic senators, challenged their Texas counterparts, Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn, to a wager on the outcome of the Chicago White Sox/Houston Astro World Series. The prize will be a basket of products from the opposing team’s home state.
“We are all extremely proud of what the White Sox have accomplished and everyone in Chicago will be cheering when they bring the championship home,” Obama said in a press release.
“And as I’ve told my wife many, many times, the White Sox are 1 and 0 in games where I throw out the first pitch,” he continued. “So all I’m saying is that if (White Sox manager) Ozzie (Guillen) calls, the arm is rested and ready.”
White Sox fans can hope that Obama and Durbin are on a roll. The last time the pair announced a game-related wager, they were on the winning side of an April NCAA semifinal basketball game between the University of Illinois and the University of Louisville. Illinois’ 72-57 victory brought Obama and Durbin pie and T-shirts.
Not quite two years later (August 2007), the Oakland Tribune reported on a campaign visit and Obama’s remarks on Barry Bonds and steroids:
Answering a question he’d basically dodged the night before, Obama said he probably would invite San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds — who set baseball ‘s new career home-run record Tuesday night — to the White House if he were president, despite unproved allegations of steroid use.
Obama said he remains concerned about “the cloud” that performance-enhancing substance abuse and other scandals have cast over professional sports. “Right now I’m not sure our kids are learning the right lessons or liking what they see.”
From Oakland, Obama headed to Sacramento for a $200,000 fundraiser at the office of prominent tribal gaming attorney Howard Dickstein; he briefly addressed more than 100 spectators who’d gathered downtown for a glimpse of his coming and going. From there, he was headed to Los Angeles for a Thursday morning fundraiser in Glendale and then to take part in the Human Rights Campaign’s candidate’s forum Thursday night in Hollywood.
Of course, Obama’s most famous baseball moment is his first pitch at the 2009 All-Star game. Here’s the AP previewing that event:
President Barack Obama is set to throw out the ceremonial first ball at Tuesday night’s All-Star game, and players already are pitching for an opportunity to greet him.
“A lot of people assume I’ve met him because we’re both from Chicago, but the closest I’ve gotten is watching him on TV,” Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson said Monday.
“If I could get a photo with him or shake his hand, that would complete my All-Star festivities,” he said.
Pujols will move behind the plate to receive Obama’s pitch.
“He says he wants to warm up before. So I’m just going to tell him, ‘Just lob it up there and don’t try to be a perfect throw,'” the St. Louis slugger said.
“Obviously it’s an honor to catch the first pitch from the president, as our leader. Tomorrow I think it’s going to get to me. As a little boy when I was my son’s age, I would never have thought I was going to be on this stage,” he said.
Wright roots for Virginia Tech, and remembered that Obama correctly picked North Carolina to win the men’s NCAA hoops tournament.
“I’d just talk sports. I mean, he seems pretty athletic and he likes to participate in sports. I would just sit around and talk sports,” he said. “I know he likes college hoops, so maybe we’ll talk a little ACC basketball.”
“I know he hooped it up with the Tar Heels,” he said.
Texas slugger Nelson Cruz previously met former President George W. Bush, a one-time owner of the Rangers.
“But this is the current president,” Cruz said. “I’d like to meet him, but I don’t want to be too political.”
And the AP covering that pitch:
President Barack Obama was true to his word: He didn’t bounce it.
Determined his ceremonial first pitch at the All-Star game would reach the plate on the fly Tuesday night, Obama delivered — barely. St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols helped him, moving up to scoop the low toss inches off the dirt.
“We did a little practicing in the Rose Garden,” Obama said during a half-inning with the FOX broadcasters. “This is as much fun as I’ve had in quite some time.”
“I did not play organized baseball when I was a kid and so, you know, I think some of these natural moves aren’t so natural to me,” Obama said.
Obama was at ease visiting the teams before the game and during his time on the air. Asked whether there were bailout funds to help the National League’s losing streak, he cracked, “We’re out of money.”
Wearing a Chicago White Sox jacket, jeans and sneakers, and cheered by the sellout crowd, Obama walked out of the NL’s dugout on the first-base side, shook hands with Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial and trotted to the mound.
Fresh from warming up a day earlier on the White House grounds, Obama went right to rubber, all 60 feet and 6 inches away. The left-hander wound up and bit his lip as he let fly.
Obama grimaced slightly, but gave a fist pump when Pujols — a Gold Glove first baseman — made the neat grab with a specially made black mitt with “Obama .44” and an American flag on it.
Obama became the latest Chicago hoopster to try his hand at baseball. Like Michael Jordan, the president looked more comfortable in his other job.
“I scooted up a little bit, but I think I was going to catch it in the air the whole way,” Pujols said. “I was more nervous not to drop the ball, believe me. I wasn’t worried about him bouncing the ball.”
The All-Star game capped off a big sports outing for the president. He began the day by greeting Wimbledon champion Serena Williams at the White House, then picked up Hall of Famer Willie Mays in Michigan for the flight to St. Louis.
As for what advice he gave Obama , the Say Hey Kid said: “Follow through.”
“He’ll be fine. I guarantee it,” Mays said aboard Air Force One.
This was the second time Obama threw out a first ball at a big league game. As a U.S. senator, he did it when his favorite White Sox played the Angels in the 2005 AL championship series.
“When you’re a senator, they show you no respect so they just hand you the ball. You don’t get a chance to warm up,” Obama said. “Here, at least they had me down with Pujols in the batting cage, practicing a little bit.”
After arriving in St. Louis, Mays and Obama walked off the plane arm-in-arm, and headed to the ballpark.
Obama first visited the NL’s clubhouse. Known for trash talking on the basketball court, he saved a little bit for the locker room.
After greeting Pujols , the most fearsome hitter in the majors, Obama went over to Milwaukee star Prince Fielder, who won Monday night’s Home Run Derby.
Pointing at Fielder, the president said, “Hey Albert , what happened, this guy, man — in your home park? What’s going on, man?”
Obama left that side with a souvenir, too. Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, like Obama from Hawaii, gave the president some macadamia nuts.
Next stop was the AL clubhouse, where he gibed Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for being so old and signed an autograph for Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. A White Sox fan, Obama was glad to see pitcher Mark Buehrle, the only representative from the president’s favorite team.
Buehrle said he didn’t really believe it when Obama said he would wear a White Sox jacket to the mound.
“I looked up and I was like, ‘Holy Cow, he’s actually doing it.’ Everybody around me was giving me a hard time saying, ‘What the heck, he’s wearing White Sox stuff.’ That’s how we roll in Chicago, we got the president behind us,” Buehrle said.
Added the president: “Everybody knows I’m a White Sox fan and my wife thinks I look cute in this jacket. Between those two things, why not?”
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig had invited Obama to the game.
“It’s a big thing. The players will enjoy it. The fans will enjoy it. But it’s another testament to the meaning of this sport,” Selig said earlier Tuesday.
“We are a social institution and whether we want to admit it or not, and for years I don’t think baseball wanted to admit that, we do have enormous social responsibility, and clearly that intrigued the White House and the president.”