Masin-Moyer: Ranking the presidential first pitches
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Tuesday, January 22, 2019
About a month ago, my parents sent me a list I made at age 6 of the top 25 things I liked. It’s quite an eclectic list that showed early signs of self-confidence (I ranked “me” at No. 7), a love for sports (baseball and the Yankees clocked in at No. 16 and No. 17 respectively) and a strange fascination with presidents (a big shoutout to Zachary Taylor for just squeaking in at No. 24).
In the intervening 15 or so years, not much has changed about my interests, so instead of going ahead and writing a piece on the NFL conference championships or something else more timely, I’m going to spend the next 500 or so words going ahead and just rank the presidential first pitches.
A few important criteria before we start. First, I’m only looking at the last six former presidents as before these men held the office, presidents didn’t head to the mound to throw out the first pitch, rather just throwing the ball into a group of players from both teams. Nixon, ever playing loose with the rules, once just threw the ball into the crowd. Second, President Trump will not be ranked as he still has anywhere from one to six years to improve his standing. Third, this list will be exclusively based on a compilation I found on YouTube which will be linked in the online version of this story. Finally, there’s no real objective measures here, really just looking at the je ne sais quoi of each pitch. And with that, let’s begin.
1. George W. Bush
There are admittedly not many lists relating to the presidency that George W. Bush ranks near the top of, but the first pitch he threw to kick off the 2001 World Series in New York is certainly deserving of the top spot.
The pitch itself is fine, right down the middle to the catcher. But the moment makes this pitch — in New York, a month post-9/11 and set against one of the most iconic venues in American sports. It might just give you goosebumps.
2. Jimmy Carter
This is the best actual pitch of the lot as the 39th president, back in Atlanta for the 1995 World Series between the Braves and Cleveland, throws an absolute scorcher to home likely due to some strength gained building homes for the poor around the world. This pitch proves there’s really nothing Jimmy Carter can’t do in his post-presidency.
3. Barack Obama
This is a really average effort from one of our top-10 most athletic presidents, though admittedly Obama’s strengths lay more in basketball than baseball. In the opening game of the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, Obama threw on his iconic mom jeans and lobbed one right down the middle to a cheering crowd. I do appreciate the absolute gall he had to wear a White Sox jacket to the game when the team ended the year 79-83 and did not send a single starter to that season’s All-Star Game.
4. Bill Clinton
There’s really not much to say about this pitch. In a very 90s jacket and hat combo at an Orioles game in 1996, Clinton did with the ball what he did with the Democratic Party — initially taking it to great heights before sadly crashing back to the center.
5. Ronald Reagan
Reagan gets major deductions here for one main reason during his first pitch at a Cubs game in 1988 — the catcher was standing a good couple yards in front of the plate. I realize he was, at the time, 77 years old, but when you have a nickname like “The Gipper,” you can’t take the easy way out on the first pitch.
6. George H.W. Bush
You would think that someone who captained the Yale baseball team and has an iconic photo with Babe Ruth would be a contender for the top spot but sadly, the elder Bush’s throw at an Orioles game in 1989 leaves a lot to be desired.
Bush was as quick in and out of this public appearance as he was with Kuwait, walking briskly up to the mound before turning and throwing the ball almost above the head of a standing catcher before quickly leaving the mound.
At least in this instance, H.W. was far outclassed by his son.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.