Future President Warren Harding’s “front porch campaign” of 1920 rendered him unable to attend a Major League Baseball game, as he usually did each summer. So on September 2, they brought a game to him.
The Chicago Cubs came to Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio to play an exhibition game against a semi-pro local team, the Kerrigan Tailors. With 5,000 in attendance, Harding pitched for the Tailors against the first (and only the first) opposing batter, including a first pitch strike as determined by “a charitable umpire.” The Cubs won 3-1.
A few weeks prior, Harding explained his love of the sport in this New York Times article:
“Baseball is one of our finest institutions… No other sport of which I know so well expresses the genius of our land. It affords every opportunity to express the individual merit of particular stars, and yet it does not glorify the individual unduly at the expense of the community. The dominant motive is teamwork. It affords an apotheosis for the get-together and pull-together spirit. It is a wonderful curative for the ills that come from the overdevelopment of the ego.”
He also invested in more than half a dozen baseball teams:
“In former years when Marion had a ball club I was always interested in it financially, although we never made any money and from the mere standpoint of the ledger it might have been called a loss. Although I never got back directly any of the money that I invested in Marion ball clubs, I never considered the money lost. I always considered it a finer investment than I might have made in some other enterprises which would have paid a more tangible profit.”
Harding also recalled his own personal best baseball play:
Then along late in the game I had the misfortune to knock a two-bagger. At least the coaches along the sidelines insisted it was a two-bagger, and even yet I can hear the yells that greeted me as I started to run. It was made very plain to me that the fate of Marion and perhaps even my own future right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depended upon my reaching second base. I did reach second base, but at what a cost! I felt the effects of that slide for two weeks.”
The incumbent president has an interesting history with the sport.
Donald Trump claimed that in high school he was the best baseball player in New York state and was scouted by the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, but a Slate investigation of contemporary box scores and interviews with former teammates found most of Trump’s claims false. Trump wasbooed by fans at Nationals Park when attending a World Series game in 2019. And he is currently the first president not to throw out a first pitch at a Major League Baseball game since William Howard Taft in 1910. (Although Trump did throw out an honorary first pitch pre-presidency, at a 2006 Yankees vs. Red Sox game at Fenway Park.)
Harding, Baseball Fan: Republican Nominee Has Played First Base on the Marion Team, and Helped Support It Later — He Loves the Partisanship of the Diamond
Published: Sunday, August 8, 1920