The Nationals announced today that Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch at Nats Park this season. This comes one year after Obama made news for publicly ditching the Nationals last season despite the open invitation to the president in his first year of office.
It has long been a grand tradition to have the president throw out the first pitch for Washington's home opener since William Taft first inaugurated the act in 1910 (100 years ago) for the Senators. In fact many believe this may have been the first - first pitch in baseball history. As lore has it the idea for the pitch came from Washington's own Clark Griffith who believed if he could get the president to throw out the first pitch, baseball would officially have the presidential seal of approval, thus making it without question the nation's pastime.
Obama's first pitch at Nationals stadium will not only mark the 100th anniversary of this tradition but will be a great historical step as he will be the first African American president take part in the act. The pitch will surly be a symbolic act in a Washington baseball history that has been scarred with losing baseball, a move, and unsettling race relations in the past.
It was in this history that Calvin Griffith, nephew and heir of legendary baseball figure Clark Griffith moved the Washington Senators, to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1961. Griffith didn't admit it at the time but was later quoted in the Minneapolis Tribune as saying, "I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don't go to ballgames, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking white people here."
His comments had their own fallout as Griffith was ripped by the local media as well as by his players. In fact it even led to the eventual parting of the Twins with their then best player, Rod Carew, who refused to be another African American on Griffiths, "plantation."