Few can agree on anything in politics these days, but one metric is incontrovertible when it comes to presidential first pitches: was it right, left or center. With spring training in the air, let’s review the results of the past ceremonial tosses by the Commander in Chief.
Each video clip is followed by a 1 to 10 rating in three areas for a possible total of 30.
GERALD FORD FIRST PITCH
President Ford showed off his ambidexterity at the 1976 All Star Game, throwing right-handed to Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench, and left-handed to New York Yankees catcher Thurmon Munson. While his throws were on target, they get downgraded for being tossed from the stands over a short distance.
DISTANCE: 5, ACCURACY: 8, STYLE: 9; TOTAL: 22
JIMMY CARTER FIRST PITCH
Jimmy Carter flourished after his one-term stint as President. He became something of a one-man arsenal of democracy in overseeing elections around the globe, and helped construct thousands of homes with Habitat for Humanity. Fifteen years after he last sat in the Oval Office, he delivered a strike to open Game 6 of the World Series.
DISTANCE: 9, ACCURACY: 8, STYLE: 9; TOTAL: 26
RONALD REAGAN FIRST PITCH(ES)
Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray provided the commentary for President Ronald Reagan’s first pitch at Wrigley Field on September 9, 1988. Unfortunately, Cubs catcher Damon Barryhill doesn’t give the Gipper a chance to throw the full 60 feet, 6 inches to home plate. After, John F. Kennedy, Reagan may have been the most gifted all-around athlete to serve as President, but baseball wasn’t his forte.
DISTANCE: 6, ACCURACY: 6, STYLE: 8; TOTAL: 20
GEORGE BUSH FIRST PITCH
George Bush, the senior, played first base for the 1948 Yale Bulldogs, which advanced to the College World Series (where they fell to the USC Trojans, 2 games to 1). Early in his presidency, he visited Camden Yards in Baltimore to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. While the commentator lauds him for pitching from the mound, he fails to mention Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton set up a good 15 feet in front of home plate.
DISTANCE: 6, ACCURACY: 6, STYLE: 7; TOTAL: 19
BILL CLINTON FIRST PITCH
President Bill Clinton also paid a visit to Camden Yards — four years and two days after President Bush had stood on the mound. As one of the commentators point out, his toss to Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles resembles an eephus pitch.
DISTANCE: 8, ACCURACY: 7, STYLE: 6; TOTAL: 21
GEORGE W. BUSH FIRST PITCH
President George W. Bush was at the height of his popularity when he paid a visit to Yankee Stadium on October 30, 2001, to throw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the World Series. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush wore a FDNY jacket to honor the first responders lost at the World Trade Center. As for the pitch, it may be the best ever hurled by a sitting U.S. President.
DISTANCE: 10, ACCURACY: 9, STYLE: 9; TOTAL: 28
BARACK OBAMA FIRST PITCH
President Barack Obama boldly donned a Chicago White Sox cap to throw out a first pitch for the Washington Nationals 2010 home opener. While the distance is there, the pitch sails to the outside of the batter’s box before being tracked down by Ryan Zimmerman. In the President’s defense, basketball is his sport of choice.
DISTANCE: 9, ACCURACY: 4, STYLE: 5; TOTAL: 18