August 31, 2019

Theodore Roosevelt Did Not Like Baseball

From The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete by Ryan Swanson, courtesy of LitHub:
During each home baseball game, the Nationals have a presidential mascot race after the top of the fourth inning. The Mt. Rushmore quartet—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt—loop around the field to the delight of Nationals fans. It's good, simple fun. "The only two rules we had," said Josh Golden, the Nationals' director of marketing, "were don't fall down and Teddy doesn't win." And for the first 525 races (yes, 5-2-5), Theodore Roosevelt did not win. Ever. Payback, as they say, is a, well . . . it's not fun.

Roosevelt really began solidifying his place in this baseball purgatory in 1906. During his fifth full year in the White House, his cold war on baseball could no longer be overlooked. The press picked up on the fact that Roosevelt ignored the World Series (PRESIDENT DECLINES. Will Not Be Able to Take in the World's Series) and never attended Major League games in the District [even though the ballpark was only two miles from the White House]. "The fact is," the Baltimore Sun wrote in 1906, "that Mr. Roosevelt is not greatly interested in the national game nor has he ever been." Baseball's leadership could have just let it go. Roosevelt's time in the White House was dwindling; there would be a new president to win over in a couple of years. But no. Rather than minimizing Roosevelt's slight, baseball's leadership launched an all-out assault to win over Roosevelt. ...

[Before the 1907 season] the Sporting Life worked to point out that Roosevelt was one of the few important people in Washington DC not interested in baseball. ... "How Theodore Roosevelt, who instinctively seems to know how to do the thing that pleases the people, came to overlook the diamond and its opportunities is a mystery."

Baseball was on its knees now. There was no sense of shame when it came to chasing down a US president.
Baseball's grovelling included presenting Roosevelt with a lifetime pass - made of solid gold - to any and all baseball games in 36 leagues, covering 256 cities. The pass was the size of a normal baseball ticket and featured an engraved picture of Roosevelt. When the president received the golden ticket, he "expressed his warm thanks". By which I assume he meant "f you".

In another article, Swanson writes that the Nationals let TR win "in a rather fraudulent manner, on the last day of the [2012] regular season". In 2019, Teddy the mascot is "leading the season long tally at Nationals' park."

Swanson wants the Nats to "get their history back in order. Don't let TR, a noted baseball curmudgeon, win anymore. ... [A]nd perhaps, just maybe, the Nationals will find themselves playing playoff baseball again this October".

No comments: