Reaching the Mound: A Guide to Presidential First Pitches

Which President Has Thrown the Most Ceremonial First Pitches?

William Howard Taft may be “best known” as the 27th U.S. President, but, if you’re like most people, you know him as the president who got stuck in his bathtub. Although the would-be Secret Service nightmare is a hoax (Taft had a super-sized bathtub installed especially for him), Taft made a lasting impression on America’s pastime.

In 1911, Taft threw a baseball from the stands to pitcher Walter Johnson. Although it looks a little different nowadays, Taft started the tradition of the ceremonial first pitch.

Fast forward 109 years, and eighty ceremonial first pitches have been thrown by a sitting U.S. president. So, from Taft to Obama (we’re still waiting for Trump’s debut on the mound), we were wondering: Who’s thrown the most strikes? Who didn’t quite make it to the catcher? Luckily, we did the research and broke down the data to answer those questions and more.

80 pitches in 109 years: A visual breakdown of presidential first pitches

Read on to see how the lineup stacks up.

 

A few curveballs…

More, more, more: Finding out who has the most of something is inherently American. When it comes to presidential first pitches, Franklin D. Roosevelt hits it out of the park with a whopping eleven first pitches. Well wait, hold on a second: FDR had a third term, meaning he had more chances to pitch. Remove the third term, and he still boasts ten pitches, well above runner-up Harry S. Truman’s eight throws.

What about commitment to America’s pastime? Some commanders in chief have thrown multiple pitches. Here are the presidents who took it the extra mile:

  • FDR
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Bill Clinton
  • George W. Bush

Only about 10% of people are left-handed, and even less are ambidextrous (both left-handed and right-handed)—the guess is around 1%. Despite the rarity, a few American presidents threw with a southpaw:

  • George H.W. Bush
  • Bill Clinton
  • Barack Obama

Right or left, here are the presidents whose ambidexterity allowed them to switch it up:

  • Harry S. Truman
  • Gerald Ford

Starting with Taft’s casual throw to Walter Johnson back in 1911, the ceremonial first pitch was originally thrown from the stands. In Taft’s case, the president would throw to the starting pitcher, who would then throw to the catcher to start the game officially. Reagan would later break this trend, as he was the first to pitch from the mound in 1988.

 

Did you know?

  • Taft was the first president to participate in Opening Day ceremonies. He was due to throw another pitch in 1912 but didn’t because the sinking of the Titanic had just occurred.
  • Wilson was the first president to attend a World Series game: the Boston Red Sox vs. the Philadelphia Phillies in 1915.
  • Hoover threw his second president pitch in the 1929 World Series, which was two weeks before Wall Street crashed.
  • After a Washington Post photographer egged on FDR to throw another pitch on Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in 1940, Roosevelt missed and hit the camera with the ball.
  • At the time, Eisenhower was the oldest president to throw a pitch. He also got heat for opting to play golf instead of throwing a pitch on an opening game that later got rained out.
  • LBJ served his first pitch only a year after JFK was assassinated. On a lighter note, he set the record for the most hotdogs eaten by a president on Opening Day (four).
  • Nixon was the last President to throw a pitch in DC until George W. Bush thirty-two years later.
  • Carter was the only former president to have never pitched at an Opening Game since the tradition began in 1911. He did manage to throw one pitch before the 7th game of the 1979 World Series.
  • Reagan didn’t participate in an opening ceremony pitch until four years into his presidency.
  • George H. W. Bush was captain of Yale’s 1948 baseball team and served some of the best presidential pitches as a result.
  • Bush threw a total of six pitches, one of which was at Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, six weeks after 9/11.
  • Trump has yet to throw a presidential pitch, but thanks to his experience as a first baseman for the New York Military Academy, he should be decently prepared.

 

Methodology

To create this breakdown, we pulled data from ESPN and Baseball Almanac. Each president’s first pitches were divided by term. Finally, by president, we collected data on the baseball fields used for the first pitches, as well as which pitches were MLB events


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