The Presidential Pastime
By Lucy English, Marketing & Communications Manager
From ceremonial first pitches to White House visits for World Series Champions, baseball has always had a longstanding relationship with our nation’s Commander in Chief. But did you know that connection goes as far back as the Revolutionary War?
At Valley Forge in 1778, George Washington played wicket, a game similar to baseball. Legend even says in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was playing baseball when he received news that the Republican Convention had named him the party’s presidential nominee. And 1869, President Grant was the first president to welcome a professional sports team to the White House when the Cincinnati Red Stockings visited while in town for a game against the Washington Olympics.
Fifteen years later, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory’s parent company, Hillerich & Bradsby Co., was founded. Thanks to H&B’s rich baseball history, we have also developed a special connection to the office of the President of the United States.
(President Gerald Ford holds a Louisville Slugger bat and talks baseball with one of his aides.)
Land of the Free, Home of Baseball
The exchange of gifts among presidents, kings, and heads of state is a centuries-old tradition. And what better diplomatic gift than one that celebrates America’s pastime? Former Yale first baseman, President George H.W. Bush, seemed to agree. During a news conference in Maine, he presented British Prime Minister, John Majors, with a Louisville Slugger bat (pictured below).
Celebrating Sterling Sluggers
Since 1949 the Silver Bat Award has been presented annually to the batting champions of the American and National Leagues. In 1953 our own John Hillerich Jr. was present when slugger Mickey Vernon received the Silver Bat Award from President Eisenhower (pictured below, Hillerich is visible between Ike and Vernon).
Vernon later became the manager of the Senators, and in 1961 welcomed President Kennedy to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.
In 1970, longtime Atlanta Braves fan and future President, Jimmy Carter, presented Rico Carty with his Silver Bat (pictured below).
POTUS Swings By
However, the most memorable moments between the presidency and Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory have been when POTUS decides to swing by for a visit to 800 W. Main Street.
Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush stopped by during their presidency. Clinton grew up a Cards fan but became a Cubs fan due to Hilary’s devotion to the team. Bush, a life-long Rangers fan once said, "I never dreamed about being president, I wanted to be Willie Mays."
During their visit both took the time to learn a little more about the bat making process (pictured below).
As long as baseball remains America’s pastime, it will remain the presidential pastime too, and here at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, we could not be more honored to have played a role in it!