This Day In History: April 14

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On April 14, 1910, President William Howard Taft becomes the first president to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. The historic toss on opening day is to star Walter Johnson, the Washington Senators' starting pitcher against the Philadelphia Athletics at National Park in the nation's capital.

Senators owner Clark Griffith had wanted a U.S. president to throw out the first pitch for years. "In President William Howard Taft," wrote Baseball Almanac in 2003, "[Griffith] found a genuine sports fan and willing, if unaware, participant in an ingenious public relations move. By convincing Taft to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season, Griffith hoped to permanently fix the presidential seal of approval on baseball as the national pastime once and for all."

Taft and the others in the presidential party—which included vice president James S. Sherman—stayed for the entire game, even after a line drive by Philadelphia’s Frank "Home Run" Baker bounced off Secretary of the Senate Charles G. Bennett's head.

Johnson, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a double to Baker. It was Philadelphia's only hit in the Senators' 3-0 win. 

The president enjoyed the game, according to reports. "Mr. Taft was as interested as all the rest," wrote the Associated Press. "He knows Base Ball thoroughly and is up on all the finer points of the game."

In 1911, Taft returned to throw out the first pitch on opening day but did not come back in 1912 because of the sinking of the Titanic. By the time baseball season rolled around in 1913, Taft was out of office, and Woodrow Wilson was president. Wilson continued the first-pitch practice, as most presidents have since.