Did you know that Benjamin Harrison was the first president to attend a Major League game?
William Howard Taft may or may not have helped popularize the seventh-inning stretch -- on the same day he began a century-long tradition of presidential first pitches. Franklin Delano Roosevelt convinced Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to continue playing baseball during World War II. George W. Bush helped the nation begin to heal during the 2001 World Series.
The history of MLB is, in some ways, the history of the presidency. The link between the two dates all the way back to June 6, 1892 -- thanks to Benjamin Harrison and his search for a nice, leisurely distraction.
"I used to go to a game in Indianapolis once in a while, and also in Chicago, and I always enjoyed it," Harrison told the Chicago Tribune just months into his presidency in 1889. "I find a good deal of pleasure in watching a good game of ball."
He was such a baseball fan that, upon moving into the White House, he even hung a scorecard on the mantelpiece for guests to admire. But he was busy, what with running the country and everything, and opportunities to get to the ballpark were few and far between. Until, in 1892, he finally got his chance.
With the Republican National Convention taking place in Minneapolis, Harrison was nervous: There was talk that his party wouldn't tap him as its nominee for a second time. With many of his colleagues away, a ballgame seemed like a perfect distraction -- and luckily, the Cincinnati Reds just happened to be in town.
Befitting the leader of the free world, Harrison took the two-mile trip from the White House to Washington's Boundary Park in a horse-drawn carriage and was even given a seat in the front row of the press box. The teams put on a show, too: "It was quickly noised about the field that this dignitary was in the grandstand," the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, "and this may account for the excellent exhibition of the national game."
Alas, Harrison forgot about arguably the most important Yogism of all: It ain't over 'til it's over. With the hometown Senators trailing the Reds, 4-1, in the sixth, the president left ... only to miss Washington's game-tying rally in the ninth. (They would eventually lose, 7-4, in 11 innings.)
Poor timing aside, Harrison wasn't a mere fair-weather fan, at least not according to the Washington Post: "There was no question about his enjoyment of the contest today and any points that he overlooked during the progress of the game were fully expounded upon to him." The racing presidents, however, remained puzzling.