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The ceremonial first pitch is a longstanding ritual of baseball in which a guest of honor throws a ball to mark the end of pregame festivities and the start of the game. Originally, the guest threw a ball from his/her place in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team, but the ritual changed after President Ronald Reagan threw the first pitch on the field at an unscheduled appearance at a Baltimore Orioles game. Now, the guest stands in front of the pitcher's mound and throws towards home plate. He or she may also sometimes stand on the mound (as a pitcher would). The recipient of the pitch is usually a player from the home team.
The ceremonial thrower may be a notable person (dignitary, celebrity, former player, etc.) who is in attendance, an executive from a company that sponsors the team (especially when that company has sponsored that night's promotional giveaway), or a person who won the first pitch opportunity as a contest prize. Often, especially in the minor leagues, multiple first pitches are made.
The practice of having a mayor, governor, or other local celebrity throw out ceremonial "first pitches" dates back to at least 1890. Ohio Governor (and future U.S. president) William McKinley, for example, "threw the ball into the diamond" before an opening day game between Toledo and Columbus in 1892.
On April 23, 2012, the Texas Rangers executed a unique twist on the first pitch tradition. Before the Rangers' home game against the New York Yankees, the team held an official retirement ceremony for longtime catcher Iván Rodríguez. Instead of going to the pitcher's mound, he went behind home plate and threw the first "pitch" to longtime teammate Michael Young, who was standing at second base.
Presidential first pitches
Former Japanese Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first game of an American All-Star team's tour of Japan in 1908, making him possibly the first former chief executive of any country to throw out a first pitch.
President William Howard Taft started the American tradition of Presidential first pitches in 1910 at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C., on the Washington Senators' Opening Day. Every President from Taft to Obama has thrown out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, usually with much fanfare. The current President, Donald Trump, has yet to throw a ceremonial first pitch, though has done so for Minor League games prior to taking office.
|1910 Opening Day||William Howard Taft||National Park||First sitting President to participate in Opening Day ceremonies; preceded Washington Nationals–Philadelphia Athletics game on April 14.|
|1911 Opening Day||William Howard Taft||National Park||The National Park where the first-ever, Presidential Ceremonial first pitch was thrown burned down in March 1911, and a new stadium, also called National Park at first, was built in its place. It would be renamed Griffith Stadium in 1923.|
|1912 Opening Day||Vice President James S. Sherman||National Park||Taft did not attend because of the death of his friend Archibald Butt in the Titanic disaster.|
|1913 Opening Day||Woodrow Wilson||National Park|
|1915 Opening Day||Woodrow Wilson||National Park|
|1915 World Series||Woodrow Wilson||Baker Bowl|
|1916 Home Opener||Woodrow Wilson||National Park||Washington Nationals defeated New York Yankees on April 20.|
|1921 Opening Day||Warren Harding||Griffith Stadium||First loss for the Senators with a President throwing out the first ball.|
|1922 Opening Day||Warren Harding||Griffith Stadium|
|1923 Opening Day||Warren Harding||Griffith Stadium||Harding also threw out the first ball in the New York Yankees opening game, two days before.|
|1924 Opening Day||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1924 World Series||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1925 Opening Day||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1925 World Series||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1927 Opening Day||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1928 Opening Day||Calvin Coolidge||Griffith Stadium|
|1929 Opening Day||Herbert Hoover||Griffith Stadium|
|1929 World Series||Herbert Hoover||Shibe Park||Game 5, October 14.|
|1930 Opening Day||Herbert Hoover||Griffith Stadium|
|1930 World Series||Herbert Hoover||Shibe Park|
|1931 Opening Day||Herbert Hoover||Griffith Stadium|
|1932 Opening Day||Herbert Hoover||Griffith Stadium|
|1933 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1934 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1935 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1936 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1937 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1937 All-Star Game||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1938 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1940 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium||Roosevelt's pitch hit a Washington Post camera.|
|1941 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Griffith Stadium|
|1946 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1947 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1948 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1949 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1950 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium||Truman threw out two balls, one left-handed and one right-handed.|
|1951 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1952 Opening Day||Harry Truman||Griffith Stadium|
|1953 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium||Eisenhower skipped Opening Day to play golf at Augusta National, but the game was postponed by rain and he threw out the first ball at the rescheduled game.|
|1954 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|
|1955 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|
|1955 World Series||Dwight Eisenhower||Ebbets Field|
|1956 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|
|1958 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|
|1959 Opening Day||Richard Nixon||Griffith Stadium||Nixon was vice president at the time; he was elected president in 1968.|
|1960 Opening Day||Dwight Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|
|1961 Opening Day||John F. Kennedy||Griffith Stadium|
|1962 Opening Day||John F. Kennedy||D.C. Stadium||First ball in new stadium|
|1963 Opening Day||John F. Kennedy||D.C. Stadium|
|1964 Opening Day||Lyndon Johnson||D.C. Stadium|
|1965 Opening Day||Lyndon Johnson||D.C. Stadium|
|1967 Opening Day||Lyndon Johnson||D.C. Stadium|
|1969 Opening Day||Richard Nixon||RFK Stadium|
|1970 All-Star Game||Richard Nixon||Riverfront Stadium||All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Ohio|
|1973 Opening Day||Richard Nixon||Anaheim Stadium||First Opening Day held outside of Washington, D.C.|
|1976 Opening Day||Gerald Ford||Arlington Stadium|
|1976 All-Star Game||Gerald Ford||Veterans Stadium||Ford threw two pitches (with the first from his right hand and the second from his left) from the stand, one to a representative from the National League and the other to a representative from the American League.|
|1979 World Series||Jimmy Carter||Memorial Stadium|
|1984 Opening Day||Ronald Reagan||Memorial Stadium||Reagan made an unannounced trip to Baltimore, after it was initially cancelled for security reasons. He watched the game from the third-base dugout.|
|1986 Opening Day||Ronald Reagan||Memorial Stadium|
|1988 Regular Season||Ronald Reagan||Wrigley Field||Reagan threw two pitches prior to the Chicago Cubs–Pittsburgh Pirates game on September 30, then joined Harry Caray for 1½ innings on the WGN telecast.|
|1989 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||Memorial Stadium||President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was Bush's special guest, but did not partake in the pregame ceremonies. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 5–4 in 11 innings.|
|1989 Japan Series||Ronald Reagan||Tokyo Dome||Game 3 between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants|
|1990 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||SkyDome||First Opening Day pitch to be thrown in Canada.|
|1991 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||Arlington Stadium||
1991 Opening Day Ronald Reagan Dodger Stadium
|1992 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||First MLB game at Camden Yards.|
|1993 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||Before this, most presidents threw from the stands or at the base of the pitcher's mound; Clinton was the first president to successfully throw from the pitcher's mound to the catcher.|
|1994 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Jacobs Field||First MLB Game at Jacobs Field.|
|1995 World Series||Jimmy Carter||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium|
|1996 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|1997 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Shea Stadium|
|2000 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Pacific Bell Park|
|2001 Opening Day||George W. Bush||Miller Park||MLB Commissioner Bud Selig (a former owner of the Brewers) threw out the first pitch to celebrate the opening of the new park; Bush threw the second pitch.|
|2001 World Series||George W. Bush||Yankee Stadium||This was the first World Series game in New York since the September 11 attacks; Bush wore a bulletproof vest and a Secret Service agent dressed as an umpire so he could be on the field.|
|2003 Opening Day||George H.W. Bush||Great American Ball Park|
|2004 Opening Day||Jimmy Carter||Petco Park||First MLB Game at Petco Park|
|2004 Opening Day||George W. Bush||Busch Stadium|
|2005 Opening Day||George W. Bush||RFK Stadium||2005 was the Nationals' first season, making Bush the first president to throw out first pitch in Washington since Richard Nixon in 1969.|
|2006 Opening Day||George W. Bush||Great American Ball Park||First sitting President to participate on Opening Day in Cincinnati; preceded Reds–Cubs game on April 3.|
|2008 Opening Day||George W. Bush||Nationals Park||This was the first pitch in new stadium. Bush also participated in ESPN's TV broadcast of the game and called the ballpark's first home run, hit by the Braves' Chipper Jones in the 4th inning.|
|2009 Opening Day||George W. Bush||Rangers Ballpark in Arlington||Bush had owned the Rangers in the early 1990s.|
|2009 All-Star Game||Barack Obama||Busch Stadium|
|2009 Japan Series||George W. Bush||Tokyo Dome||Game 3 between the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Yomiuri Giants.|
|2010 Opening Day||Barack Obama||Nationals Park||100th anniversary of the first Presidential Opening Day ceremonial first pitch|
|2010 World Series||George W. Bush||Rangers Ballpark in Arlington||Former President Bush was accompanied to the mound by his father, George H.W. Bush, and Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan.|
|2011 College World Series||George W. Bush||TD Ameritrade Park Omaha||This pitch marked the first game at the new home of the College World Series, replacing the nearby Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. Before Bush threw out the first pitch, his father, who played for Yale in the first CWS in 1947, delivered a video message christening the new stadium. He is the first President to have thrown ceremonial first pitches for amateur and professional (both North America and Japanese) championship matches.|
|2015 American League Division Series||George H. W. Bush||Minute Maid Park||Former President George H. W. Bush, aged 91, accompanied by his wife Barbara and in a wheelchair with a neck brace, threw the Houston Astros' first pitch at Game 3 of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals.|
|2017 World Series||George W. Bush||Minute Maid Park||Former President Bush was accompanied and given the first pitch ball by his father, George H. W. Bush.|
- "U.S. Presidents & Major League Baseball". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ceremonial first pitch.|
- Brown, Peter Jensen. "President Taft, Governor McKinley and the "Lucky Seventh" Inning – the History and Origins of the Ceremonial "First Pitch" and the "Seventh Inning Stretch"". Early Sports 'n' Pop-Culture History Blog. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
- "Governor McKinley Started It". Omaha Daily Bee. April 17, 1892. p. 2.
- Durrett, Richard (April 24, 2012). "Ivan Rodriguez announces retirement". ESPN. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
- "American Baseball Team is Victorious". Los Angeles Herald. November 23, 1908. p. 6.
- Duggan, Paul (April 2, 2007). "Balking at the First Pitch". Washington Post. p. A01.
- Wallner, Jeff. "President Bush tosses Opening pitch", MLB.com, Monday, April 3, 2006
- President Woodrow Wilson Baseball Game Attendance Log Baseball Almanac
- "President Franklin Roosevelt Baseball Game Attendance Log". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
- Putzel, Michael (April 3, 1984). "Reagan Makes A Surprise Visit". Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
- Dowd, Maureen, "Bush Takes Mubarak Out to the Ball Game" The New York Times, Tuesday, April 4, 1989
- "Vanderbilt opens College World Series, new stadium with win". ESPN. Associated Press. June 18, 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
- "Pres. George H.W. Bush, 91, throws out first pitch at Royals-Astros game (+video)". Kansas.com. October 12, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.