May 6, 2020

Donald Trump's Baseball Career: Slate Examines The Historical Record Very Closely

Leander Schaerlaeckens, writing in Slate:
Trump's achievements at NYMA [the New York Military Academy], in both academia and sports, are a key chapter in the story he tells of his lifelong success. But after years of watching Trump lie about sports, among other things, I wanted to know how much of the baseball part of his life story was true.
He began investigating - and Slate has published his findings. This is the kind of story I absolutely love. Not because it destroys a Trump myth (or not only because of that), but because it's public knowledge that is not questioned (or not given much thought) and someone decides let's dig down deep, really deep, and find out if it's true. It's exactly what sparked Bill James, an iconoclastic baseball thinker, more than 40 years ago

Donald Trump's claims of having been an exceptional baseball player date back to at least 2004. In The Games Do Count: America's Best and Brightest on the Power of Sports, compiled by Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, Trump states:
I was supposed to be a pro baseball player. At the New York Military Academy, I was captain of the baseball team. I worked hard like everyone else, but I had good talent. I will never forget […] the first time I saw my name in the newspaper. It was when I got the winning home run in a game between our academy and Cornwall High School. It was in 1964 and it was in a little local paper. It simply said, TRUMP HOMERS TO WIN THE GAME. I just loved it and I will never forget it. It was better than actually hitting the home run.
There is an account of a game-winning hit below, but a teammate recalls it as a bloop single and a three-base error.

Trump told MTV in 2010: "I was supposed to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately, I decided to go into real estate instead."

Trump tweeted in 2013 that he had been the top baseball player in New York state.

Trump told a biographer in 2015 he had been the best athlete in every sport at the New York Military Academy. He decided against a baseball career because "in those days you couldn't even make any money being a great baseball player".

About one month after Trump announced he was running for president, also in 2015, former NYMA coach Theodore Dobias said Trump had been scouted by the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. Talking to Rolling Stone, Dobias mentioned the Phillies again.

Trump claimed he was part of a professional baseball tryout with "another young kid named Willie McCovey".

That's an impressive baseball resume: professional-level talent, a game-winning home run, the best baseball player in the state, scouted by two major league teams, a tryout alongside a future Hall of Famer.

None of it is true.

Game-Winning Home Run

After combing the Evening News and the Cornwall Local, the only local newspapers to regularly cover NYMA sports, and doing an extensive search on, I've been unable to find "TRUMP HOMERS TO WIN THE GAME" in any local paper, nor "TRUMP WINS GAME FOR NYMA" ... Perhaps that's because in 1964 [the year Trump mentioned], NYMA didn't play Cornwall High School, according to the schedule in its yearbook. They didn't play in 1963, either.
Professional-Level Talent

Trump was sent to NYMA when he was 13. It was a rude awakening.
Trump had been raised with a chef and chauffeur, and was shocked by this strict, abrasive, and intensely physical environment. Scuffles and fights were common. Trump allegedly got into an argument with his roommate Ted Levine that got so heated he tried to throw Levine out of a second-story window.
Coach Dobias told author Gwenda Blair (The Trumps) that he named Trump "unofficial assistant baseball coach" during the latter's senior year. This could not have happened, however, because Dobias (who died in 2016) was never the varsity baseball coach during Trump's time at the Academy. (Dobias may not be an unbiased observer. He wore a 'Make America Great Again' hat in a photo accompanying a 2015 NPR story on Trump and NYMA.)

Schaerlaeckens found and interviewed seven students who played with Trump on NYMA's freshman and varsity baseball teams. Dobias had claimed Trump was extremely coachable, but two teammates told a very different story. With the team's regular third baseman away at a family wedding for one game in 1964, coach Michael McCann told Trump, who throws right-handed, that he'd play third so a left-hander could play first. Trump refused, saying he had been the first baseman longer than McCann had been the head coach. McCann backed down. (Fellow students believed Trump could get away with stunts like that because his father donated large amounts of money to the school.)

Best Athlete In The State

Levine, the guy Trump allegedly tried to throw out of a window, told Business Insider that Trump "could have probably played pro ball as a pitcher. I think he threw 80 miles an hour. I was the catcher. He made my hand black and blue every day."

Schaerlaeckens heard the same things when he spoke to Levine. "He was very large, a lot of leverage. Well-gifted, intelligent. And athletic. ... [T]he best athlete in the school." But Levine was only on the freshman team with Trump and in his 10-minute interview with Schaerlaeckens, Levine called Trump "my friend" three times and bragged that he can call the president any time he wants on his personal number.

Dick Guido recalled Trump was an "average" player. "I thought his defensive skills were better than his offensive skills."

Outfielder Joe Kinego: "He was a darn good first baseman. But best baseball player in the state? I probably would doubt that."

Pitcher Keith Vanderlip: "I heard him say he could have played Major League Baseball. But he wasn't that good."

Schaerlaeckens combed through old issues of the Evening News (Newburgh, New York). NYMA's baseball team played approximately a dozen games per season, which means Trump played a maximum of roughly 30-40 varsity games. Schaerlaeckens found box scores for nine games (roughly 25% of Trump's high school career): three games each from his sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Trump went 1-for-10, 2-for-10, and 1-for-9 in those three seasons, respectively, for a .138 average. He scored one run and knocked in three. (In game accounts without a box score, an additional hit and another hitless game were mentioned.) Of the five players who had at least eight at-bats in the three sophomore games, Trump's .100 batting average was the worst. Four teammates had more hits than Trump did in those three senior-year games.

That game-winning home run in 1964 was supposedly the first time Trump saw his name in print. The game would have been in the spring of his senior year. It is odd that such a great high school player would not have had his name in the local paper until a month or two before graduation. But whatever. Seeing his name was a greater thrill than winning the game, which I totally believe is the case. Trump has bragged in press conferences about how many Time covers feature his face. I would not be surprised if Trump framed that ancient clipping and hung it on a wall in his office. This is the moment my tremendous fame started ... But I don't believe Trump has ever shown anyone even one newspaper clipping detailing his baseball exploits.

Trump says he was scouted by two major league baseball teams in 1964. Two years later, in November 1966, he is reclassified from 2-S to 1-A, making him eligible for the Vietnam War draft. However, despite no record of any injuries since high school, Trump is disqualified after a medical examination. He receives his fourth student deferment in January 1968. That summer, Trump is again reclassified 1-A and again is disqualified after a medical examination. His status is 1-Y, to be called up "only in time of national emergency". It is changed to 4-F in early 1972.

Scouted By Two Major League Teams

Keith Law is a senior baseball writer for The Athletic and author of Smart Baseball and The Inside Game. He once worked in the Toronto Blue Jays' front office assessing high school players. He scoffed when asked if any scouts would have noticed Trump:
There's no chance. You don't hit .138 for some podunk, cold-weather high school ... You wouldn't even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That's totally unthinkable. It's absolutely laughable. He hit .138 — he couldn't fucking hit, that's pretty clear ... I've never heard of a legitimate high school prospect in this era who hit less than about .275. ... Nobody is scouting that guy.
In looking at the old newspapers, Schaerlaeckens discovered that even at a small school like NYMA, star players got a decent amount of attention. If Trump was truly a standout, there should have been at least one story about him in the local paper. But Schaerlaeckens found "no coverage whatsoever of Trump in his local papers during his senior year, when he was supposedly on the radar of at least two professional teams".

Only one of Trump's seven teammates remembered scouts showing up at any games for any reason. Dick Guido said "that would be unusual". Vanderlip was the team's top pitcher in Trump's junior year and was scouted by colleges, but even that was only when he pitched in summer leagues, not during his time at NYMA.

Willie McCovey

McCovey was born in January 1938 and in early 1955, he got a tryout in Florida for the New York Giants. Trump was born in June 1946, making him an eight-year-old kid on the day McCovey passed his audition. By the time Trump was a high school senior, McCovey was already a National League All-Star, in his fifth season in the major leagues.

College Baseball?

Trump's college years were split between Fordham University (1964-66) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (1966-68). Despite his claim of being the best all-around athlete in New York State and with the Red Sox and Phillies allegedly interested in signing him, there is no record of Trump playing even one inning of college baseball in four years. Trump has said: "I played on the freshman team [in college], but was becoming more drawn to intellectualism than athleticism, and so I gave up baseball" (my emphasis).

(In 1973 and 1976, profiles of Trump in the New York Times reported that he graduated first in his class at Wharton. In truth, he never even made the school's honor roll. In 2015, Fordham University and NYMA were threatened with lawsuits if they released Trump's academic records. (Obviously, the Very Stable Genius is modest about his superior grades. I got A+s, every class, a few of them even better than A+. No one had seen so many A+s in the history of education, believe me. Now, doctor, what if the patient guzzled a quart of bleach? Some people say bleach is like a fountain of youth. (Maybe I should give Melanie a glass?) Would he get healthy right away or would it take a day or two?))

In 2001, Trump returned to give the academy's commencement address. He arrived by helicopter with a young model on his arm, bragging that he'd bought the Empire State Building (which was a lie).

Sandy McIntosh, one of Trump's former teammates, remembers his last conversation:
It was 1964, the year he graduated. We were walking together near the baseball field where, he reminded me, he'd played exceptionally well. He demanded that I tell him the story of one of his greatest games.

"The bases were loaded," I told him. "We were losing by three. You hit the ball just over the third baseman's head. Neither the third baseman nor the left fielder could get to the ball in time. All four of our runs came in; we won the game."

"No," he said. "That's not the way it happened. I want you to remember this: I hit the ball out of the ballpark! Remember that. I hit it out of the ballpark!"

Ballpark? I thought. We were talking about a high school practice field. There was no park to hit a ball out of. And anyway, his hit was a blooper the fielders misplayed.
Before he left high school, Trump's personality was set in stone. It would never change.

He bragged about his (real or imagined) accomplishments, demanded that others tell him about his own heroics, re-wrote history but included excessive details too grandiose or nutty for anyone to believe. (Most high school fields don't have an outfield fence.)


GK said...

More evidence that this person has absolutely no redeeming qualities. An absolute waste of the few square inches of floor space he occupies.

Paul Hickman said...

Don't ignore the "facts" GK, the Red Sox would have won 30 World Series in succession with Dump hitting Cleanup. Tronald the Terminator ...... Yes, it is sadly coming true in another sphere ......

How long until the UN declares the Dump Administration are engaged in Genocide ?

Paul Hickman said...

Remember when Dump said :

"you're gonna get sick of winning"

Prescient ...... with 2 redundant words !