On this day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy throws out the ceremonial first pitch in Washington D.C.’s new stadium, called simply “D.C. Stadium.” In doing so, he continued a long-standing tradition that began in 1910 when President William H. Taft threw out Major League Baseball’s first opening-day pitch in Washington D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium.
Even before Kennedy and Taft, many presidents had associations with the nation’s favorite pastime. Andrew Johnson was the first president to invite a baseball team, from the National Base Ball Club, to the White House for a visit in 1865. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Chester Arthur also invited professional teams to visit the White House in 1869 and 1883, respectively.
Benjamin Harrison was the first president to attend a Major League Baseball game. In 1907, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues gave President Theodore Roosevelt a lifetime pass to attend any game, in spite of the fact that Roosevelt was not a fan of the game. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson became the first president to attend a World Series game. Calvin Coolidge personally awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy to Walter Johnson, of the Washington Senators, in 1925. In 1950, President Harry Truman wowed the opening-day crowd at Griffith Stadium with two pitches, one left-handed and one right-handed. Reagan watched a 1984 Baltimore Orioles game from the unique vantage point of the team’s dugout. Other 20th-century presidents, including Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton, attended games or threw out ceremonial first pitches during their tenures in the White House.
In 2001, George W. Bush became the first former managing general partner of a Major League team, the Texas Rangers, to become president. Bush also feted the Boston Red Sox at the White House after the team ended a historic 86-year dry spell with a win at the 2004 World Series.
In 1969, the D.C. Stadium was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, after President John F. Kennedy’s brother and attorney general, who was assassinated in 1968.