Must-see DC: Cubs visit White House
Team set to formally meet a sitting President for second time as franchise
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are going to the nation's capital on Monday to meet President Barack Obama and celebrate the 2016 World Series championship, and everyone on the travel party is eagerly looking forward to the trip.
"It's exciting," said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development, who will accompany the team. "I [feel] giddy to get invited."
After their get together with the President in the East Room of the White House, the Cubs are expected to visit patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before returning to Chicago.
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"It's a special thing to get to do," McLeod said. "It's a great honor. I think to top it off, by visiting some injured military personnel [it] will make it that much more special."
This will actually be the second time in franchise history that the Cubs will be formally greeted by a sitting U.S. President. According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, team president Albert Spalding made arrangements for a postseason world tour in 1888 for his White Stockings -- now known as the Cubs -- plus a team of baseball All-Stars. Spalding was hoping to get a formal proclamation from President Grover Cleveland endorsing the tour, which had stops scheduled for Australia, Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France, England, Scotland and Ireland.
Illinois congressman Frank Lawler suggested Spalding have the team meet with President Cleveland to personally ask for the endorsement, and they did so on Oct. 8, 1888. The players gathered in the East Room, just like the 2016 World Series champions will do. However, Spalding's team had to wait because Cleveland was attending the swearing in of new Supreme Court Justice Melvin Fuller.
Cleveland eventually joined the team in the East Room and shook each player's hand. Captain/manager Cap Anson then presented a letter which the team wanted the President to sign, proclaiming the greatness of the White Stockings and the traveling All-Stars.
Hartig said Anson apparently was speechless in front of the President, but after some nudging by his teammates, he completed his address. Cleveland told Anson he'd have to take the matter under advisement, but added the well-dressed ballplayers were "the best representatives of the national game to the Australian people."
After the meeting, the White Stockings headed to the ballpark to play the old Washington Nationals.
Cleveland did not give the teams his endorsement, but that didn't stop Spalding -- and the teams completed their tour.
Some other Cubs-related presidential notes:
• Ronald Reagan was a Cubs fan as a youth and, after graduating from Eureka College, he moved to Iowa where he worked at a couple of radio stations -- eventually joining WHO in Des Moines as a sports reporter. He did radio re-creations of Cubs games in the 1930s, using wire/telegraph accounts and in-studio props for sound effects.
Hartig said the wire accounts were basic and might list a double off the left-field wall by Woody English as "double English." It would be up to Reagan to ad-lib the detail, while an engineer simulated the crack of the bat and crowd noises. There often were technical difficulties, so Reagan would say batters were fouling off pitches or managers were calling meetings at the mound -- while the reality was that the batter had grounded out.
WHO radio sent Reagan to Catalina Island to cover the team during Spring Training a few times. In 1937, he arranged a trip to Hollywood for a screen test, which was successful -- resulting in a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. and ending his radio-broadcasting career.
In 1952, Reagan starred with Doris Day in "The Winning Team," which was the story of former Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. Several cast members with Cubs ties served as ballplayers in the movie -- including Peanuts Lowery, George Metkovich, Irv Noren, Hank Sauer and Gene Mauch.
As President, Reagan attended the Cubs-Pirates game at Wrigley Field on Sept. 30, 1988. Wearing a Cubs jacket, he threw out two first pitches, then sat in for an inning and a half in the WGN-TV booth along with Harry Caray and Steve Stone.
• Besides Reagan, four other sitting U.S. Presidents have attended either a Cubs regular season or playoff game (covering eight games).
President William H. Taft attended three games: May 29, 1909 (Cubs at Pittsburgh); Sept. 16, 1909, (Giants at Cubs); and May 2, 1910 (Cubs at Pittsburgh).
President Herbert Hoover attended the Cubs at Philadelphia A's World Series game on Oct. 14, 1929.
President Bill Clinton attended a Brewers-Cubs game on June 30, 1999.
President George W. Bush attended a Cubs game at Cincinnati on April 3, 2006, as well as the Cubs' game at the modern-day Washington Nationals on July 5, 2007.
• Did you know: Charles P. Taft, the chief financial backer of the Cubs from mid-season 1905 through January '16, was the half-brother of President William Howard Taft.