Baseball and Presidents

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For a frivolous interlude, some random musings on baseball’s connections to presidents.

Of course, presidents have been known to throw out ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day and, more recently, at All-Star games. And, one president has been credited with inadvertently instituting the tradition of the seventh-inning stretch. But, there are more connections than that.

Some musings after the jump.

Let’s start with namesakes. You’re probably thinking I’ll be stumped with Barack Obama. Not quite – just takes a little imagination. To wit, I give you the tandem of Marv Rackley and Bama Rowell. Both were National Leaguers whose careers overlapped slightly, most relevantly on Opening Day, 1947, when both appeared in Rackley’s career debut, which was, more famously, also the career debut of one Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

Some more namesakes:

How many more can you get?

It’s been said that Democrats win the White House when the NL wins the World Series, and Republicans win when the AL wins the series. Actually, that has held for the past four elections, in all but one election from 1940 to 1976, and in all three of the 1920s election. The one notable departure was the Reagan/GH Bush/Clinton period. Here’s the table.

[table id=78 /]

 

Any other patterns that anyone can divine?

Finally, HOFer Jim Bunning has been famously successful in both baseball and politics. Any others that anyone is aware of? Or, any others that you think would make (or would have made) good politicians?

 

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no statistician but
Guest

Vinegar Bend Mizell served in the House of Representatives from NC. Not a HOFer, but won 13 games three times and 14 twice over seven years. Was 13-5 for Pittsburgh in 1960, but got bombed by the Yankees in the Series.

Brent
Guest
I put Ulysses into the search engine at baseballreference.com just to see how many players were named after our 18th president post Civil War. The first name listed is probably the most interesting: Ulysses Franklin Grant, Born August 1, 1865 (Lee surrendered to Grant in April, 1865). Born in Pittsfield, MA. According to his HOF plaque, he is considered the greatest black baseball player of the 19th century. Of course there was also Ulysses Simpson Grant McGlynn (known as Stoney McGlynn). Born in 1872 (during Grant’s 1st term) in Lancaster, PA. Pitched for the Cardinals from 1906-1908. And a guy… Read more »
Brent
Guest

Putting in Abraham Lincoln as a search returns:

Abraham Lincoln Bailey (aka Sweetbread Bailey). Born 1895 in Joliet, IL. Played for the Cubs post WWI.

Abraham Lincoln Wade (aka Ham Wade). Born 1879 in Spring City, PA. Pitched one game for the Giants in 1907.

Abraham Lincoln Wolstenhome. Born March 4, 1861 (the 16th President was inaugurated on that very same day) in Philadelphia, PA. Had 11 At bats for the Philadelphia Quakers of the NL in 1883.

Ed
Guest

Assuming I counted correctly, nineteen players have had the first name George and the middle name Washington. The only one to make an All-Star team was George Washington Case. Case made two all-star teams, drew MVP votes in four seasons, scored over 100 runs 4 times, and led the league in stolen bases 6 times (also caught stealing 4 times).

Richard Chester
Guest

Former AL pitcher from the 40s and 50s Tommy Byrne was mayor of Wake Forest, NC from 1973 to 1987. He led the league in walks 3 times and in hit-batsmen five times. He holds the record for most walks in a game with 16. On the credit side in 1955 he was the only LH pitcher with a complete game against the Dodgers (WS game 2).

Brent
Guest

Actually using most presidents’ full names as a search at baseballreference.com picks up at least one player for almost everyone.(OK, not everyone, no Millard Fillmore namesakes, however, there are two players named after Franklin Pierce) Interesting enough, Theodore Roosevelt only came back with one hit, and it was a recent player. Ted Lilly’s full name is Theodore Roosevelt Lilly.

Doug
Guest

Franklin Roosevelt also had just one hit, FDR Weiand, better known as Ted (what else?) Weiand, a pitcher for the 1958 and 1960 Reds. Total of 6.1 IP, with 3 HR allowed.

At least the homers were memorable – one was a grand slam by Jimmie Coker with a tie score in the 8th inning; another was a walk-off 2-run job good for a cool 0.910 WPA for Bob Skinner, as the Bucs scored 6 in the 9th for a 6-5 win.

Richard Chester
Guest

Former NY governor Mario Cuomo spent a year in the minor leagues (1952).

Hartvig
Guest

And of course, former President GHW Bush played first base for Yale, where his head coach was Smokey Joe Wood who played MLB when Wood(row) Wilson was President.

scott-53
Guest

Good one!! Yale–row.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Not on point, but in a book Larry Ritter published there’s a photo of Babe Ruth, two months before his death, presenting a copy of his autobiography to the Yale captain and future president. (Tried in vain to twist this into some coincidence of presidential names, but it’s hard to argue they were both named after Washington . . .)

ATarwerdi96
Guest

And let’s not forget Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander.

Ed
Guest

Martin Van Buren Walker started one game for the’28 Phillies. He faced either 5 or 6 batters (his player page says 6 but the box score says 5) and failed to retire a single one. He walked 3 and gave up 2 hits, allowing 4 runs, 2 of which were earned. That’s the only game he ever pitched in.

scott-53
Guest

I’ve got one for one of the president’s of the Continental Congress 1774-1789.

John Hancock 1776.

scott-53
Guest

Josh Hancock– Cincinnati Reds(2004-2005) (6-1)(23 games)

9 games started. 7 games finished.

Brent
Guest

And I tried the currency people who aren’t presidents. Benjamin Franklin has several namesakes, the best player of them was Benjamin Franklin Houser, a dead ball era 1st baseman for the Braves. As for Alexander Hamilton, as far as I could tell, he doesn’t have any namesakes.

Ed
Guest

Of course the all time named after a president has to be Cal McLish aka Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. Yes, that really was his full name.

bstar
Guest

Doug…you’ve been on fire this week. Thanks for keepin us busy with something good to read.

I’ve got to admit, I’m as liberal-blue as you can get, but George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch (the one I always see shown on TV) was a rocket. He even nailed the delivery. Best presidential arm ever?

Other notable sports figures to be politicians: Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, ex-Redskins QB Heath Shuler and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.

Richard Chester
Guest

And QB Jackie Kemp.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

In an interview Bush says that as he was warming up under the stands Derek Jeter came along and told him that he had better throw off of the rubber and that he had better throw a strike with some mustard on it – or the Yankee Stadium fans were going to boo him.

Jason Z
Guest

Agree on both counts Bstar.

Albanate
Guest

During Steve Garvey’s career, there was a lot of talk about him going into politics after his baseball career…but then his ex-wife wrote that tell-all book…

Thomas Court
Guest

My favorite bumper sticker from the San Diego area:

“Steve Garvey is not my Padre.”

Ed
Guest
Walter Johnson, whose father-in-law was a member of Congress, ran for a seat in Maryland in 1940 but lost. “Joseph W. Martin, Jr., before he was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1947 to 1949 and 1953 to 1955, recruited Johnson to run for Congress. “He was an utterly inexperienced speaker,” Martin later said. “I got some of my boys to write two master speeches for him – one for the farmers of his district and the other for the industrial areas. Alas, he got the two confused. He addressed the farmers on industrial problems, and… Read more »
Insert Name Here
Guest
Some others I’ve found not yet mentioned: HOFer Ben Taylor’s full name was Benjamin Harrison Taylor. He was a Negro Leaguer, so he isn’t very well-known, but his HOF profile describes him as “a productive lefty-swinging, line-drive hitter who regularly batted over .300. His leadership skills were such that he eventually became a well-regarded player-manager. Renowned for his teaching abilities, Taylor was instrumental in the development of Hall of Famer Buck Leonard.” There have been at least 7 minor leagues named John Adams, although the closest John Adams in the Majors is 1910s catcher Bert Adams (full name John Bertram… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

George P. Bush played for Nashua in 1902. No, not the son of the govenor of Florida.

Gerald Ford (R-MI) was born Leslie King; Leslie Kingston Burke played for Detroit in the 1920s.

Calvin Coolidge Ermer (b. 1923) managed the Twins in the late 1960s.

And Tommy Bridges, who pitched for the Tigers in 4 World Series in the 1930s-40s, was Thomas Jefferson Davis Bridges, taking in two presidents (if you recognize the Confederacy).

Jason Z
Guest

Sorry to get off baseball, but let me mention Gerald Ford who played
center for the University of Michigan football team.

He was also a pretty good golfer.

The reason I mention him is that he took a pounding from Chevy Chase the
first season of SNL.

Chase portrayed him as a someone who had difficulties walking.

The truth is that he was a great athlete.

scott-53
Guest

Male Model also. Catalogs I think.

Jason Z
Guest
Ronald Reagan broadcast Chicago Cubs games from a studio in Des Moines, Iowa. He would receive telegraph updates and recreate the game based on these. One time in 1934 during a game against the Cardinals the telegraph malfunctioned. Here is what happened in the words of President Reagan… “There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a homerun by a foot. I… Read more »
scott-53
Guest

Good short story. Radio days. (1934)

Hank G.
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Reagan also played Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1952 movie “The Winning Team”.

Jason Z
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Right on Hank. I knew that but had forgotten.

I kept thinking of when Dutch played The Gipper.

Hartvig
Guest

That may be the winning combination: a future President playing a ball player named after a former President

RJ
Guest

Some across the pond representation: of recent Prime Ministers I’ve found minor league careers for David Cameron, Gordon Brown, John Major, James Callaghan and Harold Wilson, but surprisigly no Margaret Thatcher. We have some baseball related names though in Arthur Balfour and Alec Douglas-Home, although it’s actually pronounced “Hyoom”.

scott-53
Guest

Mookie Wilson. 1986 Mets?

scott-53
Guest

Also Willie Wilson 1980’s Kansas City Royals.

scott-53
Guest

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (Born 1856). President of U.S. 1913-1921. WWI president(1917-1918). Also president during progression from dead-ball era to live-ball era in Major League Baseball.

Artie Z.
Guest
The President with the shortest turn in office, William Henry Harrison, has one namesake – kind of. Billy Geer, an 1870s-1880s SS, has the birthname George Harrison Geer. Apparently he knew that there would be a famous Beatle by that name in the future, and figured he might avoid confusion if he were known as William Henry Harrison Geer. Harrison’s (the former President) successor was John Tyler, and there has been one “John Tyler” who pops up in baseball-reference’s search engine, John “Johnnie” Anthony Tyler, who posted a 165 OPS+ in 13 games (53 PAs) for the 1935 Braves (and… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest

John Tyler had sixteen children. Not a typo.

At least we know he was proficient at something.

That puts his TFRAP at 14.106 (Total Fertility Rate Above Replacement)
based on 2011 statistics.

Doug
Guest

There was also an Isaac Burr Butler, a pitcher for for the 1902 Orioles. Aaron’s aim was evidently better than Isaac’s, who yielded 168 hits and 103 runs in only 116 innings. His SO/BB ratio was 0.29, though he allowed zero wild pitches.

Scott
Guest

There are 3 Woodrow Wilson namesakes in there, the best being Woody Williams (1938-45). Woody Paige on ESPN was named after his dad who was named for President Wilson.

Warren Spahn’s SABR biography begins… “Named after both President Warren G. Harding and his own father, Warren Edward Spahn was born in Buffalo, New York, on April 23, 1921.”

Ed
Guest

Here’s a strange one….Max Venable, a player I definitely remember…his real name is William McKinley Venable. Anyway, it’s a bit strange…Venable was born 56 years after McKinely was assassinated. And he’s from California so there’s no connection to McKinely’s birth state of Ohio. Not sure why he was named after the former President.

Richard Chester
Guest

Let’s not forget the umpires. In the AL from 1946 to 1965 there was an umpire named William (Bill) McKinley. Yankee OF Hank Bauer once got into an argument with him and shouted “They shot the wrong McKinley”. Needless to say it was an automatic ejection.

Steven
Guest

It may be blasphemy to post this on a baseball site, but in 1965, when the nation’s top guy was Lyndon Johnson, and his veep was Hubert Humphrey, the starting quarterback for the Cardinals was Charley Johnson, backed up by Buddy Humphrey.

John Autin
Editor
Searching for James Earl (for Carter) yields cameo big-leaguer Jim Kennedy (James Earl Kennedy), older brother of Junior, who was a semi-regular for the Reds during the Carter administration. Others focused on presidential first and/or middle names: – George Walker, pitcher for the ’88 Orioles (that’s 1888). – William Jefferson Sowders, another pitcher who debuted in 1888. – George Herbert Gerken, a ’20s OF better known as Pickles. – Ronald Wilson, a ’70s minor-leaguer. – Harold Baines. – Three pitchers named John Fitzgerald, all of whom served brief terms. – Minor-leaguer Dwight Davis. – Harold Delano Wynegar, better known as… Read more »
Richard Chester
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Don’t forget Monty Franklin Pierce Stratton and Allie Pierce Reynolds.

Eric
Guest

As for World Series and presidents, since Steinbrenner bought the Yankees, they’ve won the World Series whenever they played in it under a Democratic president (1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009) but lost when playing under a Repulican president (1976, 1981, 2001). This is fate’s curse upon George for making illegal campaign contributions to Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Eric
Guest

Oops, forgot 2003 in the list of losses under Republican presidents. (Also forgot the “b” in “Republican.”)

scott-53
Guest

World Series Champions 21st Century–

2-RED SOX-2004,2007
2-CARDNALS-2006,2011
2-GIANTS-2010,2012

6 TIED WITH 1 EACH.

topper009
Guest

However most pennants:
4 – Yankees

scott-53
Guest

Most 21st century pennants:

AL 3 Yankees 2001,2003,2009

NL 3 Cardinals 2004,2006,2011

topper009
Guest

Fine the year 2000 is technically not in the 21st century, but Im still counting it.

Jason Z
Guest
I thought I might go ahead and peruse the list of signees to the Declaration of Independence, without which, this “little” experiment in democracy may never have taken root. Lyman Hall, Physician and Minister from Georgia. Lyman Bostock, September 23, 1978 was a sad day. John Hart, Landowner from New Jersey, John Hart, GM, front office executive, Richard Henry Lee, Plantation owner from Virginia. Richard aka William aka Bill…Bill Lee, The Spaceman. Caesar Rodney, Plantation owner and Soldier from Delaware. Fernando Rodney, modern day relief specialist Cesar Geronimo, slick fielding centerfielder with the Big Red Machine. Thomas Stone, Lawyer from… Read more »
kds
Guest

The better George Stone played for the StL. Browns 1905-1910, (after getting 2 PA for the Red Sox in 1903.) His best year was 1906. He led the league in all 3 slash categories and OPS+, but the only counting statistic he led in was TB. I would guess that nobody has ever done that before or since. He was 29 that year. He had 8.5 WAR, more than a 1/3 of his 24.4 career total. With only 3665 PA that is about 4 per year, a pretty good average.

topper009
Guest

There were several Oswalds in the minors, no Lee Harveys at all. Also a bunch of Rubys in the minors but I could not find an instance of a Ruby picking off an Oswald baserunner.

A few Booths played in the 18th century, no John Wilkes come up at all.

No luck with Charles Guiteau or Leon Czoglosz.

I guess these guys dont inspire many baby names for some reason

oneblankspace
Guest

Ozzie Guillen is an Oswaldo.

Jason Z
Guest

John Hinckley Jr.-deranged lunatic.

Mike Hinckley, 2 cups of coffee, Washington Nationals,2008-09, sadly
he appears to have contracted Steve Blass disease in 09.

topper009
Guest

I think Mickey Hinckley’s favorite player all-time was either George Foster or Jodie Beeler

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Well, I’ve tried to create a comment linked to all of the interesting George Washingtons, but offering multiple links is regarded as spam.

But here’s the master search link (and I will mention that one of the George Washingtons had a nickname of Satan):

http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl/player_search.cgi?search=george+washington

Doug
Guest

Chester Arthur has 3 namesakes, two who played only in 1906, and the third only in 1911 plus a single game in 1912. The combined line of this trio: 22 games, 8 for 57, 4 runs, 1 2B, 2 SB, 6 BB, 9 SO, .140/.212/.158

topper009
Guest

Haven’t seen my favorite president yet, Harry Truman. Unfortunately Harry Truman comes up blank in baseball-ref, and no Trumans ever made the bigs. In the minors Truman was a first but never a last, and mostly from players born before he took office.

Richard Chester
Guest

A guy by the name of Truman Clevenger pitched in the AL from 1954 to 1962. He was better known by his nickname Tex.

PP
Guest

I was surprised Obama had such a weak ass arm. I’m also pretty sure I played some pickup games with him at a court near Harvard Law School back in the late 80s.

deal
Guest

John Kennedy the Ballplayer and Kennedy the President share the same birthday.

Couple of other interesting tidbids in the SABRbio

http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/452fe557

Doug
Guest

I love the part about a love letter from the ballplayer’s fiancee being delivered to the White House by mistake. And, then being redirected back to the ballplayer in a manila envelope.

Dalton Mack
Editor

After serving many terms as “The Mayor” and the resident affable contributor on MLB Network, Sean Casey seems poised for a future run at the White House. Incidentally, there’s currently a Canadian member of Parliament who shares his name, as well as the Lord Mayor of Cork in the 1960s.

Jason Z
Guest

I really hope you are correct Dalton.

Mike L
Guest

Since every election has a winner and a loser (and because I’m such a junkie for this) I add: Al Smith (D, loser 1928) and two All Star Al Smiths; Al the outfielder, 1953-1964, who finished third in MVP voting in 1957) and Alfred John Smith, Pitcher, 1934-1945 AS, 1943.
And, William Jennings Bryan (three time loser, 1896-1908) who had William Jennings Bryan Harris (1920-28), William Jennings Bryan Patterson (1921), and the Hall of Famer William Jennings Bryan (Babe) Herman.

oneblankspace
Guest

Did the Senator from Kansas ever go to business school? There was a Robert Dolemba who played 15 games in rookie league ball in the 1950s.

Herbert Humphrey played for the Braves organization just before WWII. Kyle Goldwater played some independent ball in the ’00s in the Frontier and Atlantic Leagues. There were 21 hits for John Anderson, and going back to the primaries, a Gary Hart (and a Gary Hartsock).

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