Despite the spring equinox, the season never really arrives in the U.S. until the familiar cry of “play ball!” rings out. In Washington the grand and ancient tradition is carried out as President Johnson arrives to throw out the first ball as a thousand shutters click…”
To celebrate the home opener, I’ve put together a youtube playlist of Opening Days in Washington over the years, starting with a silent movie featuring Herbert Hoover. There’s some more highlights of recent vintage as well:
For generations, the traditional start of the American League season begin in the District of Columbia, frequently with the President throwing out the first ball to the assembled Washington Senators. Presidents Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson included in black and white newsreels included on the playlist. Footage of Richard Nixon, a big Senators fan, couldn’t be found — newsreels were over by then and the Senators were by the end of Nixon’s first term. Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush (the elder) and Clinton would throw out the first ball elsewhere, while oddly enough softball player Jimmy Carter never did, at least for Opening Day.
The Nats should always be home in season opener. And, the president should always throw out the first pitch. It's called history.
The tradition resumed, albeit sporadically and not always on true Opening Day, in 2005 when the Washington Nationals were reborn as a National League team. Now, it’s a first pitch, from the mound to a specific player rather than the first ball from the stands to a group. George W. Bush made two home opener appearances – 2005 at RFK Stadium and 2008 on Nationals Park Opening Night. Barack Obama, wearing a Chicago White Sox cap and Nats jacket threw an eephus pitch in 2009.
Hoping for a return to an annual Washington Presidential Opening Day is unfortunately a fool’s errand. Between other presidential duties and MLB stretching out Opening Day into Opening Week, the tradition is unlikely to return. At the very least, MLB could award Washington a regular Opening Day slot, but they tend to be more sympathetic to Baltimore on such matters.
There are a few other on-field highlights as well as a pregame hype video. Hopefully, more Opener video will find it’s way onto youtube.
Happy Opening Day, every one! We survived another long offseason.
The Washington Nationals threw away 2015 and Bruce Harper’s magnificent season in late 2013 when they hired Matt Williams to succeed Davey Johnson as manager. Now, they hope hiring one of Williams’s mentors will reverse the trend. Dusty Baker has a reputation of poor pitching management, but also being a strong clubhouse manager. After last season, the former seems more important.
Stephen Strasburg is in his walk year and seems to have put it together in the second half of 2015 – if he’s healthy he probably wins more than Opening Day starter Max Scherzer who seems likely to regress a bit in his second NL season. It’s an enviable top two, but looming in the East is a powerful, young New York Mets rotation with a pennant on the resumes.
The biggest issue for that Nats and every one of course is health. Last year the optimum lineup played TWICE in 162 games. Leadoff man Denard Span is gone with Ben Revere. If Anthony Rendon can stay healthy and play like he did in 2014, that should be a solid top of the lineup for Harper and Ryan Zimmerman I’d he can avoid chronic injury.
I like the Nats to improve over next year overall just by the addition by subtraction of Matty. I’m saying 90-72. I don’t know if that’ll be enough to win the division, but they will be a factor.
That’s Oakland Raiders legend Ben Davidson, by the way, making his triumphant return to Washington. He played for the 1962-63 Redskins.
The road uniforms were similar to somejerseys (Dressed to the Nines) that the Senators wore over the year with WASHINGTON in block letters on the front. On the back, the name was in blue with the number in red, a look the Chicago Cubs have used (sportslogos.net).
The Americans logo, shown here is was on the sleeve.