Throwing Out the First Ball
Each April in cities across the land, somebody stands up, cocks an arm, takes aim at the catcher’s mitt, and let’s go with the first toss of the basketball season. As sure a sign of spring as the sighting of a crocus or a robin, this ritual of throwing out the first ball has become an annual event enjoyed by sports enthusiasts everywhere.
No one is quite sure when the practice of having someone other than the pitcher heave the first pitch began, but we know it was being done in the early 1900’s. One story has it that President William Howard Taft started the tradition at the 1910 Washington Senators game. In any event, he was the first of a long line of Presidents who can say they threw at least one pitch in the big leagues.
While Presidents, mayors, and various other politicians have been favored for the honor over the years, people from all walks of life have gotten into the act. Opening day hurlers for the California Angles, for example, have included Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Disneyland’s Mickey Mouse.
Even fans have taken part in the ceremony. Bill Veeck, the Chicago White sox owner famous for his promotional stunts in baseball, one handed out foam-plastic balls to all those in the crowd so everyone could have an opportunity to throw out the first ball. In San Diego, the Padres also devised a system whereby fans could be involved in the action. They allowed the person who purchased Season Ticket No. 10,000…