Presidential perk: That first pitch

The Associated Press

Houston Astros win game 3 in the World Series

Jonathan Lemire

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's plan to attend Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday will continue a rich tradition of intertwining the American presidency with America's pastime.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's limousine drove onto to the field ahead of the 1933 World Series, the last time the nation's capital hosted the Fall Classic. Congressional hearings on the stock market collapse were postponed so senators could attend the game.

Harry S. Truman tossed out a first pitch from the stands of a regular season game in August 1945, just days after the end of World War II, giving Americans a sense that normalcy was returning after years of global conflict.

George W. Bush wore a bulletproof vest under his jacket when he threw a perfect strike from the Yankee Stadium mound during the 2001 World Series, not 10 miles from where the World Trade Center was attacked a month earlier.

Trump, who has yet to throw out a ceremonial first pitch since taking office, plans to arrive after the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros are underway and leave before the final out, in hopes of making his visit less disruptive to fans, according to Rob Manfred, baseball's commissioner.

While it will be Trump's first time attending a major league game as president, he has deep ties to the sport.

A longtime New York Yankees fan who was spotted regularly at games in the Bronx, he was also a high school player with enough talent that, he has said, he drew the attention of big-league scouts.

Presidential attendance at baseball games has "become an institution and a unifying influence in a nation that is losing both," said Curt Smith, a former Bush speechwriter and author of "The Presidents and the Pastime."

"It is part of the job description, irrespective of whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat or a liberal or a conservative. Bush found it a joy, he understood the symbolism of the moment. And he was the rule, not the exception," Smith said.

Trump mentioned his World Series plan to reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday. But when asked whether he might throw out the first pitch, he said, "I don't know. They're going to have to dress me up in a lot of heavy armor," apparently referring to a bulletproof vest. "I'll look too heavy. I don't like that."

But the Nationals, who decide on ceremonial first pitches, made clear that the president was not asked to take the mound. That honor instead will go to a notable Trump critic, celebrity chef Jose Andres, whose humanitarian work has been widely acclaimed.

Andres, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Spain, has been a longtime critic of the president's views on immigrants and he halted plans to open a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. The Trump Organization then sued Andres, who also denounced the administration for failing to do enough to help the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

There's some suspense around how Trump might be greeted at the game.

Though the fans at the high-priced event are likely to skew more corporate than at a regular season Nationals contest, Trump is extremely unpopular in the city he now calls home. In the 2016 election, Trump won just 4 percent of the vote from the District of Columbia.

Trump's White House staff has long tried to shield him from events where he might be loudly booed or heckled, and he rarely ventures out into the heavily Democratic city. (With the exception of his hotel, a Republican-friendly oasis a few blocks from the White House.)

"It'll be loud for Trump but every president gets booed: both Bushes, Reagan, Nixon. When Americans pay for their ticket, most of them buy into the great American tradition to boo whomever they want," says Smith. "He should embrace it: So what if the elites boo you? Think of how it plays with your voters elsewhere in the country, thinking 'There they go again, booing our guy.' Use it!"

Trump has long been a baseball fan, especially of his hometown Yankees. Before he became president, he would be spotted at games, sometimes along the first-base line with then-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. Trump was also memorably photographed behind home plate across town in the moments after the final outs of the 2006 NLCS when the New York Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Trump played high school baseball at New York Military Academy, where he was a star first baseman. His coach, Col. Ted Dobias, told Rolling Stone in 2015 that Trump "thought he was Mr. America and the world revolved around him."

"He was good-hit and good-field," Dobias said. "We had scouts from the Phillies to watch him, but he wanted to go to college and make real money."

Phillies spokesman Greg Casterioto said Friday that the team's scouting records do not go back that far and there is no way to verify that claim. But Trump, when honoring the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox at the White House in May, fondly remembered his time playing the sport.

"I played at a slightly different level," Trump said, "but every spring I loved it. The smell in the air."

That event also underscored Trump's tumultuous relationship with professional sports. Several Red Sox stars, including Mookie Betts, and the team's manager, Alex Cora, declined to attend the White House ceremony. Trump has disinvited other championship teams, including the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia Eagles, from attending after some of their players criticized him.

Trump is, so far, the only president since William Howard Taft in 1910 not to have thrown a first pitch at a major league game. (The first president known to attend a game was Benjamin Harrison in 1892). Calvin Coolidge, nearly a decade before Roosevelt, was the only other president to attend a World Series game in Washington.

Trump will sit with league officials and likely watch from a luxury box, behind security and away from much of the crowd. That would be very different from some of his predecessors, including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who sat by the field for their ceremonial duties.

"In the old days, they would throw from the presidential box," said baseball historian Fred Frommer, who has written several baseball books, including a pair of histories about Washington baseball. "Players from both teams would line up on the first base line and would fight for it, like a mosh bit. And whoever emerged with it would take it to the president for a signature."

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Altuve, Astros show up in World Series, win Game 3 in DC 4-1

Howard Fendrich

AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — From the moment George Springer jumped on the game's third pitch for a single, then quickly swiped a base, to the way he and his teammates sprinted off the field after the final out a little past midnight Saturday, the Houston Astros were suddenly aggressive and energetic.

And suddenly right back in the thick of this World Series.

Yes, the Fall Classic finally showed up back in Washington, 86 years later — and, sparked by Springer and José Altuve, the Astros finally showed up in the Fall Classic.

Springer had two of Houston's four steals, Altuve doubled twice before scoring each time, Zack Greinke repeatedly worked out of trouble, and the Astros made sure they wouldn't go quietly despite looking listless twice at home, beating the Nationals 4-1 on Friday night to cut their Series deficit to 2-1.

"We're pretty good, too," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It kind of re-establishes us."

Houston can even things up in Game 4 on Saturday night at Nationals Park. Washington will start $140 million lefty Patrick Corbin, while Hinch said he'll go with rookie José Urquidy.

"We didn't panic," Altuve said.

Washington's eight-game winning streak, tied for the longest in a single postseason, ended with a sloppy performance in the first Series game hosted by the nation's capital since the Senators lost to the New York Giants in 1933.

A sellout crowd of 43,867, dressed mostly in red for the occasion, soaked it all in, standing in unison at key moments, booing ball-strike calls that hurt their team, chanting "Let's go, Nats!" often and even getting to do their "Baby Shark" sing-and-clap-along when that children's tune blared as a walk-up song in the sixth.

"It was electric," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "The boys in the dugout, they were fired up."

But the wild-card Nationals were unable to move one win from a championship, undone by an inability to come through in the clutch: Birthday boy Juan Soto, MVP candidate Anthony Rendon and Co. were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, leaving 12 runners on base.

"Tonight we were a little bit aggressive outside the strike zone," Martinez said. "We took balls I thought we should hit, uncharacteristic of what we've been doing."

How big was this win for Houston?

No team ever has come back after dropping the first three games of a World Series.

"Not the script you'd want to write to start out a World Series," said reliever Will Harris, who retired all five batters he faced Friday. "We believe in each other in there. We know we have obviously a very talented, capable team."

That's why several Astros players gathered for a private meeting following their 12-3 loss Wednesday.

"Some guys said some things that a lot of us maybe were thinking in our head, but it's sometimes nice to hear them out loud," Harris said. "And the biggest thing was we didn't want anybody feeling sorry for themselves coming here, because that's not going to accomplish anything."

After playing what might have been their worst baseball of 2019, the Astros played like the club that led the majors with 107 regular-season wins.

And, not surprisingly, Altuve was in the middle of a lot of it. He doubled in the third and fifth, coming home on singles by Michael Brantley.

"José's the heart and soul of what we do," Hinch said. "It was his turn to be a catalyst."

Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, allowed seven hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings, but managed to yield just one run. He was followed by five relievers who combined to give up two hits and zero runs the rest of the way.

Josh James earned the win, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with two aboard to end the fifth.

"Huge," Hinch said.

Roberto Osuna heard boos when he entered in the ninth, then got three outs for a save.

Josh Reddick delivered an RBI single in the second, Robinson Chirinos homered off the foul-pole screen in the sixth and Houston scored four runs in 5 1/3 innings off Aníbal Sánchez. The 35-year-old righty had taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his previous start; Springer got to him right away.

Sánchez went sprawling off the mound to try to make a play, but couldn't. All part of a rough night in which he got so upset by a couple of ball calls that he asked plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, "Where was that one?"

Sánchez also barely avoided taking a ball to the face, getting his glove in the way just in time. Another Houston hit came when Springer sent a comebacker off reliever Joe Ross' foot.

In sum: After the Nationals could do no wrong for so long, things went awry.

They made two errors and at least three other misplays on what were ruled hits. Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki left in the sixth with a right hip flexor problem. Soto, serenaded by fans in left field to celebrate his 21st birthday, was charged with an error for a wild throw home, let another ball trickle past his glove and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts at the plate.

He went down looking to end the game.

"Nobody," Washington outfielder Adam Eaton said, "thought this was going to be easy."

UP NEXT

Astros: Urquidy found out after Game 3 that he will start Saturday; he only threw 41 innings during the regular season. Hinch is prepared to rely heavily on his relievers, saying: "Every World Series game is a bullpen game, mostly, at some point."

Nationals: Corbin will be making his seventh appearance of this postseason, a third start to go along with four outings out of the bullpen. He is 1-2 with a 6.91 ERA, including one scoreless inning in relief during Game 1 of the World Series.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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