On April 5, next Monday, President Obama will mark the 100th anniversary of the American and DC baseball tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch as the Nationals open their season against last year’s National League Pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies. Since 1910 every President has thrown out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series. This will be the 48th time a President has thrown out the first pitch in the city.
“I am proud that President Obama will continue the long presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch of opening day in Washington, D.C.,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.
Obama will have an experienced target, too: When he played in Texas, new Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star, twice caught ceremonial pitches from President George W. Bush, a former Texas Rangers owner.
The tradition began April 14, 1910 when President William Howard Taft threw out the first pitch from the grandstand on a warm spring day before a record crowd of 12,226 fans filled Griffith Stadium.
According to Baseball Almanac and the thorough research of Christine L. Putnam in a April 2003 post,
“The President and Mrs. Taft along with the presidential party including Vice-President Sherman and Secretary of State Charles Bennett arrived at the ballpark on schedule. Taft had just come from giving a speech to a large contingency of Suffragists at their annual convention; and after being booed by them, was no doubt thankful to be at the ballpark among friends. At the given time, Street took his place opposite and some distance from President Taft. Mrs. Taft held the baseball while the President removed his new gloves. The crowd (and Clark Griffith) waited in eager anticipation.
Finally, the moment that would live on in baseball legend and lore had arrived. With all eyes on him, the 300-pound right-hander turned slightly and threw the ball to Walter Johnson. Although the throw certainly lacked style or grace, Johnson managed to catch it, thus saving the President any embarrassment. The crowd roared. It was no accident or errant pitch that sent the ball to Johnson. A Presidential aide overheard the earlier conversation between McAleer and Johnson and informed the President. Taft refused to let the shy pitcher back out of history. A grateful Johnson would never make that mistake again.
The Presidential party stayed for the whole game even after a line drive foul ball, off the bat of A’s Frank “Home Run” Baker, shot into the Presidential Box and bounced off the Secretary of State’s head. Silence filled the park. Secretary Bennett waved to the crowd and the game continued. Johnson struck out nine batters and had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning when Senator’s right fielder Doc Gessler running back for an easy fly ball collided with a young fan 5. The ball fell for a ground-rule double. In the end, the Senators won 3 to 0 and Johnson was satisfied with a one-hitter.
The next day, President Taft’s season opener first pitch dominated the sports pages across the country. One newspaper account stated, “He did it with his good, trusty right arm, and the virgin sphere scudded across the diamond, true as a die to the pitcher’s box, where Walter Johnson gathered it in.”
The Associated Press reported that “Mr. Taft was as interested as all the rest. He knows Base Ball thoroughly and is up on all the finer points of the game.” Americans adored their President for enjoying the true pleasures of life: a bag of peanuts and a ball game. Griffith’s public relations move was a success. Players and baseball fans considered Taft one of their own; and the Washington Senators held the interest of the nation and the Oval Office.
That opening day presidential pitch had a profound influence on the men who held the spotlight that afternoon: Walter Johnson and William Howard Taft. The following day at the White House, Taft received the baseball he had thrown in the ceremony with a humble request from Johnson for his autograph. Taft must have chuckled at the thought of himself signing a baseball like a ballplayer, and the little boy inside of him, who played with youthful passion was certainly delighted. He wrote across the meat of the ball, “To Walter Johnson with hope that he may continue to be as formidable as in yesterday’s game. William H. Taft.” Thus was the first baseball in what would someday become Johnson’s large collection of ceremonial first pitch baseballs autographed by U.S. Presidents.
After the season opener Taft became baseball’s most enthusiastic fan and advocate. In a speech a month later, Taft declared, “I like it [baseball] for two reasons – first, because I enjoy it myself and second, because if by the presence of the temporary chief magistrate such a healthy amusement can be encouraged, I want to encourage it.” 9 And Taft did. He attended another baseball game a few days after the opener and shared a five cent bag of peanuts with the Vice-President while they watched the Boston Americans beat their beloved Senators.
Despite the chilling afternoon, Taft threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington season opener in 1911. And he stayed for the game. The President had plans to do the same in 1912 but the Titanic disaster a few days earlier made it impossible. Determined to keep his presidential tradition going, Griffith rescheduled the ceremony for a June home game. Not to be outdone, Congress adjourned early that day and many of them watched President Taft toss the ball to Walter Johnson in front of a packed house in Washington.
By continuing the opening day tradition through Taft’s presidency, even in the wake of disaster, Clark Griffith forever bonded baseball and the American Presidency. The national pastime was now not only sanctioned by the Chief of State, he became its biggest fan among the millions of average Americans who filled ball parks every season across the country. While the opening day ritual became engraved on the list of presidential duties, back in 1910, Taft did more than establish a custom, he set the standard. Taft added peanut eating, score keeping, and appropriate robust cheering to the list of duties, thus compelling his successors to become ordinary fans if only for nine innings.
President Taft made baseball history that day and his act of ceremony and gamesmanship gave him a place in Baseball’s most revered inner sanctum. In the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York, next to a collage of photographs honoring past U.S. Presidents throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, there is an inscription which includes the lines, “In 1910 William Howard Taft was induced to attend the season opener of the Washington Senators and make the honorary first pitch. Thus was launched a remarkable tradition…”
Here’s to hope that President Obama can improve on his performance in last year’s All-Star Game in St. Louis. From The Guardian,
Finally, the president of the United States has met his match. He may have shown extraordinary prowess at winning elections, making speeches and swatting flies, but his technique at pitching from the mound leaves definite room for improvement.
To be fair to the president, this was not his sport of preference. “I did not play organised baseball when I was a kid and so, you know, I think some of these natural moves aren’t so natural to me,” he said as he commented on the game on TV later that evening.
In preparation, he had practised on Monday night with an aide in the Rose Garden of the White House, and spent some time in the warm-up area of Busch stadium, home of the St Louis Cardinals. Dressed in the jacket of the Chicago White Sox, he took to the mound facing the Cardinals’ star hitter Albert Pujols, fully 60 feet and 6 inches away.
Surprisingly for Obama, who has had plenty of exposure to far larger crowds, he looked apprehensive in front of the 46,000 fans. He bit his lip as he lobbed a left-handed pitch that went high and fell perilously short of the plate. Pujols came to the rescue, stretching forward his special black glove marked “Obama 44″ to grab the ball before it hit the dirt.
The world of baseball was respectful, if underwhelmed. The St Louis Post-Dispatch compared him with the Cardinals’ starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, saying the high and looping pitch was like one of Wainwright’s killer throws “only 50 mph slower”.
Great photo gallery of all the Presidents throwing out a first pitch from Obama to Taft.
Anyone who takes the eastern segment of the Red Line can sit back and observe graffiti from the point where the elevated trains emerges from Forest Glen (video) all the way to Union Station when the train goes back underground.
The city of Washington, D.C. reported that in 2007, it spent about $800,000 removing illegal graffiti. In an effort to combat this, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities teamed up with the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Department of Public Works to sponsor the D.C. Creates Public Art project. The project was funded by the Committee on Public Works, chaired by Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. The project aims “to replace illegal graffiti with artistic works, to revitalize sites within the community and to teach young people the art of aerosol painting.” The project was headed by The Midnight Forum, another D.C. organization focused on youth empowerment through hip-hop. After an application to select the participants, the project resulted in murals created throughout the spring and summer in D.C. communities.
According to Russian news reports the two attacks were carried out by women terrorists. It is suspected the Chechens are the origins of the attacks, but more details and information will emerge about the attack throughout the week.
According to The Washington Post, @ 2:42 am
Two explosions shook crowded subway stations in central Moscow during the morning rush hour Monday, killing at least 34 people and injuring many others, according to local officials, who said early reports pointed to coordinated strikes by suicide bombers.
If confirmed, the blasts would represent the deadliest and most sophisticated terrorist attacks in the Russian capital in several years.
Officials said the first explosion occurred shortly before 8 a.m. at the Lubyanka subway station, killing 22 people. The second blast occurred about 45 minutes later at the Park Kultury station, located on the same line four stops away, killing at least 12 people, officials said.
Moscow’s subway system, one of the most extensive and busiest in the world, with more than 7 million passengers daily, was targeted by militants linked to the separatist insurgency in Chechnya earlier in the decade, including in multiple suicide attacks in 2004 that killed dozens of people.
The city has enjoyed a respite from such violence in recent years, but Muslim radicals have stepped up their attacks in the North Caucasus region recently, including in Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan. And in November, authorities blamed the insurgents for the bombing of a luxury train traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg, which caused a derailment that killed at least 26 people.
The Moscow Metro ( Московский метрополитен, Moskovskiy metropoliten), which spans almost the entire Russian capital, is the world’s second most heavily used metro system after the Tokyo‘s twin subway. Opened in 1935, it is well known for the ornate design of many of its stations, which contain outstanding examples of socialist realist art.
Despite yesterday’s celebratory mood at the White House, where Vice President Biden told President Obama “This is a big fucking deal,” upon signing a year’s delayed health care bill that narrowly passed the House 219-212 with 34 house Democrats voting against it, the White House has entered into a very public diplomatic disagreement with Israel over the rebuilding of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
The Syndicate, as Charles Krauthammer has observed, finds it odd that President Obama bowed so prominently in the company of other world leaders before the Saudi King Abdullah in April of last year, but has so publically shunned our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
According to the Post from last week, “Allies everywhere feeling snubbed by President Obama“,
The contretemps between President Obama and Israel needs to be seen in a broader global context. The president who ran against “unilateralism” in the 2008 campaign has worse relations overall with American allies than George W. Bush did in his second term.
Israelis shouldn’t feel that they have been singled out. In Britain, people are talking about the end of the “special relationship” with America and worrying that Obama has no great regard for the British, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months (and is finally being rewarded with a private dinner, presumably to mend fences). In Eastern and Central Europe, there has been fear since the administration canceled long-planned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States may no longer be a reliable guarantor of security.
Our domestic jubilation should be humbled by the precariousness of our foreign policy under this regime.
In the fall of 1998 the independent movie Slam was released following critical acclaim, giving the city some unexpected but well deserved shine in film. The documentary style flick captures a pre-“gentrifcation” era of the city when Tupac and Biggie’s recent murders were reminders of the fatalistic nature of street life. Chronicling a D-Boy from the southside who gets caught up in the system, Slam is worth viewing for the first time or watching again for the mere purpose of take a trip down memory lane which includes a cameo from the Mayor 4 Life as a DC judge.
The film has an interesting twist as the main character played by Saul Williams is freed from Lorton on the strength of the thug lord Hopha’s word played by Bonz Malone. A pre-The Wire Sonja Sohn plays a prison poetry teacher and love interest.
Slam has some great cinematography of city life and is a must see for any local historians and area cultural enthusiasts. There are some notable discrepancies such as when Saul Williams character gets off at the Cleveland Park metro stop and goes to a club on U Street.
This is the first film featured in The Syndicate’s movie archives, but there will be more to come.
The video is from a scene where Saul Williams catches the spirit after the raps of a real-life DC dude facing murder charges.
Washington, DC was once home to a thriving German community that called present day Chinatown what Latinos call Mt. Pleasant.
According to the 2000 Census, 42.8 million, 15.2% of all Americans had German ancestry, the largest of any ethnicity, followed by the Irish, 30 and a half million, 10.8% of Americans.
The growth of the city’s German immigrant communities in the late 19th and early 20th century created a need for orphanages that would handle orphans with a shared cultural, ethnic, and linguistic identity. There were numerous Germans orpahages throughout the city.
The 1900 census reveals the orphanage on the 2100 block of Good Hope RD SE housed 52 “inmates” and was run by the 7 member of the family of Henry & Elizabeth Harrold. From preliminary research The Syndicate can estimate that this particular orphanage on Good Hope Rd. SE was in operation until the early or mid 1950’s. Photos are available via a search of the Historical Society of Washington’s online catalog.
German Washington along with other ethnic groups, such as Irish Washington, have a long tenured relationship with Washington, DC which must continue to preserve and celebrate the wonderful history of its neighborhoods, culture, and people. The addition of the German-American Heritage Museum to downtown Washington joins the Newseum, National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum, the newly renovated Ford’s Theatre and visitor’s center, Spy Museum, National Museum of Crime and Punishment, and others have created an area of the District that is comparable to neighborhoods in our sister city Paris.
The GAHM is a quick walk from the Goethe-Institut-Washington at 812 7th St. NW which is always busy and is participating in DC’s Environmental Film Festival by hosting three movies ($6/$4 tickets) in succession the next three Mondays at 6:30 beginning with this Monday, March 22’s Neuland, “a journey through the East German countryside, which is undergoing significant transformation. The documentary assembles the stories of 18 people and projects which are exploring new frontiers in various ways.” Also, check out Monday, March 29, Leroy.
In October 2008 the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA acquired Hockemeyer Hall at 719 6th St. NW originally built in 1888 by John Hockemeyer, a German immigrant who became a successful merchant, the Victorian townhouse is part of the Penn Quarter, historically a vibrant district of Washington, DC, originally settled by German immigrants.
According to their website, John Hockemeyer came to Washington as a 15 year-old German emigrant in 1858. After serving in the Civil War, Hockemeyer became a wealthy merchant in the grocery, coffee roasting, and meat businesses, which helped him solidify his position as a leader of Washington’s prosperous German-American community. Hockemeyer Hall was a fine residence, which proclaimed both the economic coming of age of the German community and Hockemeyer’s status within that community. But, most importantly, it became a vital social center for Washington’s German-American business community.
This was a prime location, situated just a block off the fashionable Seventh Street business district and near to such German community institutions as the Washington Journal Office (across the street at 710 Sixth), Dietz’s Ratskeller (around the corner at 511 Seventh), and Adolph Cluss’s Masonic Temple at Ninth and F Streets.
“Hockemeyer’s Hall” was constructed as a well-appointed clubhouse that included a library, meeting room, and billiard room. The Hall served as a headquarters and meeting place for a variety of clubs and fraternal groups, in some of which Hockemeyer served as an officer. Hockemeyer also hosted a group called the Buena Vista Pleasure Club, which used the hall for dances and banquets.
The museum will be open to the public this Sunday from noon – 5pm. Its regular hours will vary during the week on Tuesdays-Sunday. The museum will be closed Monday. Admission is FREE.
Thanks to H-DC for the story break.
As spring slowly rolls into the city….