Noted baseball historian and former White House speech writer Curt Smith is about to release his latest book about the grand old game.
“The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House” delves into the historic relationship between baseball and the U.S. presidency.
You might be surprised to find out that a form of baseball or “town ball” dates back to the Revolutionary War. The game ultimately became America’s pastime with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson even giving employees time off to either play or watch the fledgling sport.
Without doubt, the biggest Red Sox fan to call the White House home was George H. W. Bush, for whom the author wrote many speeches over the years. Bush was born in Massachusetts, raised in Connecticut and spent summers in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The day Bush turned 18 in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, received wings and his commission and became its youngest naval aviator after training in North Carolina. It was during that training period that he met another young aviator, Ted Williams, who a few years prior to that began his legendary career with the Boston Red Sox.
Bush and Williams fought in World War II to save our nation, and in 1988, it was Williams who saved Bush’s politician life.
Trailing Sen. Bob Dole badly in the New Hampshire GOP Presidential Primary polls, then-Vice President Bush was shocked when “Teddy Ballgame” showed up at a February campaign rally. Bush needed all the help he could get after just having lost the Iowa caucus, and he got it from Williams, who went on the campaign trail with Bush for a few days. The crowds got bigger with each passing stop and the vice president went on to win the New Hampshire Primary with ease.
Asked what put Bush over the top, then-governor and future Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu said initially “the President’s campaigning." Then with a big smile Sununu said, “The Kid," which is Williams' nickname.
Bush 41 was also a very good baseball player having served as captain of his team at Yale.
President John F. Kennedy’s grandfather helped open Fenway Park in 1912. In 1960, the then-42-year-old Kennedy met baseball legend Stan Musial. Kennedy greeted the future Hall of Famer by saying, “they tell me you’re too old to play baseball and I’m too young to be president, but maybe we’ll fool them."
Ronald Reagan recreated baseball games on the radio. A young Jimmy Carter went on baseball trips with his mother, “Miss Lillian." President Donald Trump turned down a chance to play pro baseball in favor of making “real money” in the business world.
It’s all in this highly entertaining book by Smith who will be a guest on “Cail and Company”on WTPL and WEMJ on Wednesday, June 6, at 1:35 p.m.