Monday, February 21, 2011

Lineup for Presidents' Day

Note: This is an updated version of an entry I made on February 12, 2009, the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

If we were to make a baseball team of all Presidents, who would be on it? Granted, no President has ever played professional ball -- and quite a few were around before the game itself. But let's speculate.

Surely, Abraham Lincoln (who served 1861-65) would have to be on the team. He was tall and thin, but known for splitting rails, so maybe he could hit. With his long legs, he might be a good, fast, rangy center fielder. So we'll put him in center and bat him leadoff.

George Washington (1789-97) would have to be included, for reasons physical as well as historical. Big and strong, and supposedly threw a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River in his youth. (Sometimes, the story is that he threw it across the Potomac River at his Mount Vernon home, but that river is so wide as to make that story ridiculous.)

But a pitcher? I'm not sure. Big George seems to have had a nasty temper, not good for a pitcher. But he was very cool under pressure. Possibly a good choice for "the hot corner," third base, where his good arm would be put to good use. So let's put him there, and in the middle of the lineup, somewhere between 3rd and 6th.

Along with Washington and Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45) is considered one of the three greatest Presidents. But his polio makes him a bad choice to play. So I'll make him the manager.

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09)? In real life, he did not like baseball. His favorite sport was boxing, and he was on the boxing team at Harvard. (That's right, the ultimate elitists' school then had a boxing team.)

TR would not have been a pitcher. He liked to say, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." Definitely a hitter. What position woul dhe play? He was a bit of a control freak. Make him the catcher, have him call the signals.

Actually, his successor, William Howard Taft (1909-13), had been a catcher, playing for Yale University. But I'll take the 225-pound TR over the 325-pound Will. "The Colonel" will bat cleanup, although his status as the first real "environmental President" has little to do with that.

The elder George Bush (1989-93), like Taft, played baseball at Yale, and was considerably better at it. He was a member of the Bulldog team that made the first two College World Series finals, in 1947 and '48 -- but lost both. But he's probably still the best baseball-playing President, even if the first ball he through to open Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992 fell short of the plate -- and boy, was that recession-plagued President booed for it! He played first base, and he does here as well, though at or near the bottom of the lineup.

Second base requires quick thinking and quick movement, and is not conducive to large men. Tall men, maybe; large men, no. Andrew Jackson (1829-37) is my choice, and I'm guessing he would have liked hitting.

Shortstops need to be versatile. Aside from TR, no President had as varied a set of interests as Thomas Jefferson (1801-09). Tall, not heavy but fairly strong, he'd match the model of shortstops set by Robin Yount and Alan Trammell in the late 1970s, followed by Cal Ripken in the 1980s and Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez in the 1990s. I'll bat him third.

That leaves left field and right field. I'll avoid the political definitions of "left" and "right." John F. Kennedy (1961-63) would probably get hurt too much, and Lyndon Johnson (1963-69) and Richard Nixon (1969-74) would probably both complain about their place in the batting order. So they're all out.

Barack Obama (2009-present) is a lefthander, and the left fielder could be lefthanded. We know he's a baseball fan (the White Sox), and he's showed some pretty good range so far. Hitting? He certainly hit Hillary Clinton and John McCain hard in the 2008 campaign. Put him second in the order.

James Monroe (1817-25) is the only man to be both Secretary of State and Secretary of War (the post now called Secretary of Defense) at the same time (for 5 months in 1814-15, at the end of the War of 1812). He was with George Washington in the boat crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776. And he (along with his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams) created the Monroe Doctrine. Not sure what kind of hitter he'd be, but his defense would be good. Right field.

John Adams (1797-1801), James Madison (1809-17), John Quincy Adams (1825-29), Martin Van Buren (1837-41), James Buchanan (1857-61), Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81), James Garfield (6 months in 1881) and Benjamin Harrison (1889-93) would be too short by the standards of today's players.

The elder Adams, Ben Harrison, William McKinley (1897-1901) and the aforementioned Will Taft were too fat.

William Henry Harrison (31 days in 1841 before dying of pneumonia), James Polk (1845-49, died within 3 months of leaving office), Chester Arthur (1881-85, died of kidney failure a year and a half out of office) were too sick.

Franklin Pierce (1853-57) and Andrew Johnson (1865-69) were too drunk. Not Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77), though.

Warren Harding (1921-23) and George W. Bush (2001-09) were too dumb.

Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) hated baseball, although his wife Grace would make him take her to Washington Senators games, including in the 1924 and '25 World Series. Herbert Hoover (1929-33) would drop the ball. Jimmy Carter (1977-81) would probably hold out for 444 days.

The pitching rotation could be: Ronald Reagan (1981-89), who played Hall-of-Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander in the film The Winning Team; Bill Clinton (1993-2001), a strong, innings-eating lefthander who might know a trick pitch or two, given his nickname of Slick Willie; Gerald Ford (1974-77), who was an All-American lineman at the University of Michigan and probably could play a little baseball; and Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61), a calm, cool, corner-painting righthander. Righthanders Ike and Ron (though Ike wasn't really a "right-winger") would balance out the rotation with lefties (physically if not politically) Bill and Jerry.

Grover Cleveland (1885-89 and again 1893-97), rather chunky but a hard worker, could be a fifth starter or a long reliever. Woodrow Wilson (1913-21), who chose to "make the world safe for democracy," could be the closer, except he didn't do what he said he would do. So let's make him the setup man out of the bullpen. No, the closer has to be the cagey lefthander who put the finishing touches on World War II, Harry Truman (1945-53).

So here's the lineup, with their sequential numbers being their "uniform numbers":

Batting 1st, the center fielder, Number 16, Abe Lincoln.

Batting 2nd, the left fielder, Number 44, Barry "the Rock" Obama.

Batting 3rd, the shortstop, Number 3, Tom Jefferson.

Batting 4th, the catcher, Number 26 Teddy "the Colonel" Roosevelt.

Batting 5th, the third baseman, Number 1, George Washington.

Batting 6th, the second baseman, Number 7, "Old Hickory," Andy Jackson.

Batting 7th, the right fielder, Number 5, Jim Monroe.

Batting 8th, the first baseman, Number 41, George "Poppy" Bush.

Warming up in the bullpen, and batting 9th, the pitcher, Number 40, Ron "Dutch" Reagan.

Four Democrats (Obama, Jefferson, Jackson and Monroe), four Republicans (Lincoln, TR, Daddy Bush and Reagan), and the non-partisan Washington. Fair and balanced.

Bring on the other team.

"Leading off, the center fielder, Number 3, George 'the King' Hanover."

George III? In center field? That's crazy!

Play ball!

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