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 their seat in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team, but the ritual changed after United States 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. The ceremonial thrower sometimes stands 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 ceremonial first pitches dates back to at least 1890, when throwers were often a mayor, governor, or other locally notable individual. 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. 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 person who had served as a national head of government to throw out a first pitch.
Ceremonial first pitches during the World Series are subject to the Commissioner of Baseball's approval. Section 7.13 of the World Series Manual states, "All first‐ball throwers are subject to final approval of the commissioner. Recommendations are solicited from the participating clubs, but no commitments should be made until approval has been received. The use of politicians, movie stars, etc., will not be approved except in rare or unusual circumstances." Baltimore Orioles owner Jerold Hoffberger was fined $2,500 for allowing Maryland Governor Harry Hughes to throw out the first pitch before Game 2 of the 1979 World Series over the objections of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
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.
On July 23, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw the first pitch of the 2020 MLB season after it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presidential first pitchesEdit
The American tradition of presidential first pitches began in 1910, when United States President William Howard Taft threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Senators' Opening Day at Griffith Stadium. Every president since, with the exceptions of Donald Trump and Joe Biden (who has yet to do so during his current presidential term) has thrown out at least one ceremonial first pitch during or after their presidency, either for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, usually with much fanfare.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt has thrown the most presidential first pitches while in office at 11, while President George W. Bush has thrown 14 first pitches overall, including those thrown before and after holding the office. Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter are the only presidents to not throw a ceremonial first pitch for an Opening Day during their presidency, though the latter did so after he left office.
|First pitch by a future president|
|^||First pitch by a former president|
|*||First pitch by a vice president|
|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||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||James S. Sherman (Vice President)*||Taft did not attend because of the death of his friend Archibald Butt in the Titanic disaster.|
|1913 Opening Day||Woodrow Wilson|||
|1915 Opening Day|
|1915 World Series||Baker Bowl||Wilson's first public appearance with then-fiancée Edith since their engagement.|
|1916 Home Opener||National Park||Nationals defeated New York Yankees on April 20.|
|1921 Opening Day||Warren G. Harding||Griffith Stadium||First loss for the Nationals with a president throwing out the first ball.|
|1922 Opening Day|||
|1923 Opening Day||Yankee Stadium|
|1923 Home Opener||Griffith Stadium||Done two days after his first pitch at Yankee Stadium.|
|1924 Opening Day||Calvin Coolidge|||
|1924 World Series|
|1925 Opening Day|
|1925 World Series|
|1927 Opening Day|||
|1928 Opening Day||Coolidge left after the first inning due to cold weather.|
|1929 Opening Day||Herbert Hoover|||
|1929 World Series||Shibe Park||Held two weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.|
|1930 Opening Day||Griffith Stadium|||
|1930 World Series||Shibe Park|
|1931 Opening Day||Hoover was received by a mixed audience, with some opposed to Prohibition chanting "We want beer!"|
|1932 Opening Day||Griffith Stadium|||
|1933 Opening Day||Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|1933 World Series|
|1934 Opening Day|
|1935 Opening Day|
|1936 Opening Day|
|1936 World Series||Yankee Stadium|
|1937 Opening Day||Griffith Stadium||A plane flew overhead carrying a banner reading "Play the game, don't pack the court," in protest of Roosevelt's failed Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937.|
|1937 All-Star Game|||
|1938 Opening Day|
|1940 Opening Day||Roosevelt's pitch hit a Washington Post camera.|
|1941 Opening Day|||
|1945 World Series||Harry S. Truman||First left-handed presidential ceremonial first pitch.|
|1946 Opening Day|||
|1947 Opening Day|
|1948 Opening Day|
|1949 Opening Day|
|1950 Opening Day||Truman threw out two balls, one left-handed and one right-handed.|
|1951 Opening Day|||
|1952 Opening Day|
|1953 Opening Day||Dwight D. Eisenhower||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|||
|1955 Opening Day|
|1955 World Series||Ebbets Field|
|1956 Opening Day||Griffith Stadium|
|1958 Opening Day|
|1958 All-Star Game||Richard Nixon (Vice President)||Memorial Stadium||The catcher was Gus Triandos.|
|1959 Opening Day||Griffith Stadium||Eisenhower did not attend and was represented by Nixon.|
|1959 All-Star Game||Forbes Field||Nixon threw the pitch at the first of that season's two All-Star Games.|
|1959 Old-Timers' Day||Herbert Hoover (former President)^||Yankee Stadium|||
|1960 Opening Day||Dwight D. Eisenhower||Griffith Stadium|||
|1961 Opening Day||John F. Kennedy|
|1961 Old-Timers' Day||Herbert Hoover (former President)^||Yankee Stadium|||
|1962 Opening Day||John F. Kennedy||D.C. Stadium||The recently constructed D.C. Stadium would later be renamed the RFK Stadium after Kennedy's brother Robert F. Kennedy in 1969.|
|1962 All-Star Game||All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.|
|1963 Opening Day|||
|1964 Opening Day||Lyndon B. Johnson||Set a record for most hot dogs eaten by a president on Opening Day: four.|
|1965 Opening Day||: 195|
|1966 Opening Day||Hubert Humphrey (Vice President)*|
|1966 All-Star Game||Busch Memorial Stadium||The temperature at the start of the game was 100 °F (38 °C). Humphrey left the ballpark shortly after the pitch.|
|1967 Opening Day||Lyndon B. Johnson||D.C. Stadium|||
|1968 Opening Day||Hubert Humphrey (Vice President)*||Due to low approval, Humphrey attended in-place of Johnson amidst public unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.|
|1969 Opening Day||Richard Nixon||RFK Stadium||Nixon requested the presidential seal to be mounted on his box, causing embarrassment when the seal provided had "president" misspelled.|
|1969 All-Star Game||Spiro Agnew (Vice President)||Richard Nixon was scheduled to throw out the first pitch but was unable to attend after the game was postponed by rain. Agnew threw one pitch to National League catcher Johnny Bench and one pitch to American League catcher Bill Freehan.|
|1970 All-Star Game||Richard Nixon||Riverfront Stadium||All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Ohio.|
|1973 Opening Day||Anaheim Stadium||First Opening Day presidential first pitch outside of Washington, D.C.|
|1976 Opening Day||Gerald Ford||Arlington Stadium|||
|1976 All-Star Game||Veterans Stadium||Ford threw two pitches (with the first from his right hand and the second from his left) from the stands, 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||Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey playfully yelled, "Next time, get your ass here before the seventh game," in reference to Carter skipping the Opening Day.|
|1981 All-Star Game||George H. W. Bush (Vice President)||Cleveland Stadium||Bush had hoped he would be pitching to Carlton Fisk but a 13-year-old fan was picked out of the crowd to serve as catcher.|
|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|||
|1986 All-Star Game||George H. W. Bush (Vice President)||Astrodome||Bush's second All-Star Game. The catcher was Gary Carter.|
|1988 All-Star Game||Riverfront Stadium|||
|September 30, 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.|
|April 25, 1989 (Regular Season)||Anaheim Stadium||: 196|
|June 28, 1989 (Regular Season)||Memorial Stadium|
|1989 Japan Series||Ronald Reagan (former President)^||Tokyo Dome||Game 3 between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants.|
|1990 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||SkyDome||First Opening Day pitch by a president to be thrown in Canada.|
|May 24, 1990 (Regular Season)||Dan Quayle (Vice President)*||Wrigley Field|
|July 16, 1990 (Regular Season)||George H. W. Bush||Memorial Stadium||: 196|
|1991 Opening Day||Arlington Stadium|||
|Dan Quayle (Vice President)*||Memorial Stadium||Final Opening Day at Memorial Stadium|
|1992 Opening Day||George H. W. Bush||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||First MLB game at Camden Yards. Bush was joined by his 15-year-old grandson, George P. Bush.: 196|
|1992 All-Star Game||Jack Murphy Stadium||Threw first pitch with Ted Williams.: 196|
|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.|
|Al Gore (Vice President)*||Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium|
|1994 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Jacobs Field||First MLB Game at Jacobs Field.|
|1995 World Series||Jimmy Carter (former President)^||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium|||
|1996 Opening Day||Bill Clinton||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|1997 Opening Day||Shea Stadium|
|2000 Opening Day||Pacific Bell Park|
|George W. Bush (as Governor of Texas)||The Ballpark in Arlington||Future 43rd president|
|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||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 (former President)^||Great American Ball Park|||
|2004 Opening Day||Jimmy Carter (former President)^||Petco Park||First MLB Game at Petco Park|
|George W. Bush||Busch Memorial Stadium|||
|Dick Cheney (Vice President)*||Great American Ball Park|
|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.|
|2005 American League Championship Series||Barack Obama (as United States Senator from Illinois)||U.S. Cellular Field||Future 44th president|
|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.|
|Dick Cheney (Vice President)*||RFK Stadium|
|August 18, 2006 (Regular Season)||Donald Trump (future President)||Fenway Park||Trump, who would become the 45th president, threw out the first pitch before the nightcap of a doubleheader to publicize The Jimmy Fund.|
|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 (former President)^||Rangers Ballpark in Arlington||Bush had owned the Texas Rangers in the early 1990s.|
|Joe Biden (Vice President)||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||Future 46th president|
|2009 All-Star Game||Barack Obama||Busch Stadium|||
|2009 Japan Series||George W. Bush (former President)^||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 (former President)^||Rangers Ballpark in Arlington||First World Series home game in franchise history; former President Bush - who owned the Rangers when the stadium was built - was accompanied to the mound by his father, George H. W. Bush, and Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan.|
|2011 College World Series||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.|
|2011 World Series||Rangers Ballpark in Arlington|
|2015 American League Division Series||George H. W. Bush (former President)^||Minute Maid Park||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 (former President)^||Bush was accompanied and given the first pitch ball by his father, George H. W. Bush.|
- Ceremonial first puck, a similar ritual of ice hockey
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