President Taft and America’s Favorite Pastime

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Learn About The President Who Started Two Baseball Traditions

  • Baseball season is now in full swing! The ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day is usually thrown by a celebrity, professional athlete, government official, member of Congress, Supreme Court justice, or president. The first president to throw a ceremonial first pitch was President William Howard Taft. Every president since Taft has thrown the first pitch during Opening Day, the All Star game, or the World Series. President John F. Kennedy (also buried at Arlington National Cemetery) threw the first pitch on Opening Day in 1961, 1962 and 1963.

    Over 100 years ago, on April of 1910, President Taft attended the opening day game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics. Taft, sitting in the first row near the field, was handed a baseball by the umpire. He threw the ball to pitcher Walter Johnson who in turn threw the ball to the catcher. Consequently, for many years the first pitch was thrown from the stands, not from the pitcher’s mound.

    The ceremonial first pitch is not the only tradition Taft imparted on baseball. President Taft was a very large man standing at 6’2″ and weighing in at 350lbs. In fact, he was so large that an oversized tub was placed in the White House. Although he was big, he never got stuck in a bath tub! Sore from sitting on a small wooden chair, President Taft stood between the top and bottom of the seventh inning to stretch. When the President stands everyone else in the room is supposed to stand. All of the fans at Griffith Stadium stood out of respect for the President. There are other stories and theories about the origins of the seventh inning stretch; but this one is the most popular and entertaining!

    President William Howard Taft, who also served as the tenth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was buried in section 30 at Arlington National Cemetery on March 11, 1930. He is the first president and first Supreme Court justice to be interred at Arlington. Pay homage to the President, Chief Justice and lover of baseball. Take the narrated tram tour to hear more about the 27th President, 10th Chief Justice, and lover of America’s favorite pastime.

    Amanda Varnam
    Arlington National Cemetery
    Narrator, driver, trainer and dispatcher.