The Fall Classic

“Yale Yale can’t play ball, what in the Hell do we care now.”

On October 9, 1915, the former 2nd Baseman for the Lightfoot Baseball Club of Augusta, Georgia threw out the first pitch for Game 2 of the World Series. Woodrow Wilson was an avid lifetime fan of America’s Pastime and took every opportunity he could to be involved with the sport.

In fact, his first stint as a president took place in his parents’ loft in 1870 as he led the Lightfoot Baseball Club’s meetings. Then, during his one year at Davidson College in 1873, “Tommy” Wilson played center field for the Fighting Wildcats. Unfortunately, the level of his passion for the game didn’t necessarily extend to his play and he failed to make the team at Princeton, but went on to serve as the team’s assistant manager. The cheer “Yale Yale can’t play ball, what in the Hell do we care now” was a popular taunt following a win in the highly contested Princeton-Yale baseball series. A Princeton man through and through, Wilson would later teach and serve as the president of the college and while there are no specific records of this, I strongly suspect that those words may have crossed his lips.

While in office, Wilson attended 11 Major League Baseball games and made several historical appearances. On April 4, 1913 Wilson threw out the first pitch for the Opening Day match up between the Washington Senators and the New York Yankees. This was the first game played by a team formally recognized as the Yankees. The team formerly known as The Highlanders had moved to the newly rebuilt stadium at Polo Grounds, and had adopted the new name “Yankees,” coined years earlier by sportswriter Jim Price, which had become extremely popular with fans.

Perhaps Wilson’s most memorable game was his attendance of Game 2 of the 1915 World Series, the first ever Fall Classic game attended by a president. He was not in attendance for the starts in Games 1 and 3 by the legendary Grover Cleveland Alexander, but Boston pitcher Rube Foster put on a show of his own in Game 2, pitching 9 innings of 1-run ball and driving in the winning run of the game himself in the ninth inning. The 1915 World Series is often remembered as George Herman “Babe” Ruth’s postseason debut, but what is often forgotten is that his “debut” amounted to going 0-1 in his sole appearance in the series: as a pinch hitter.

Four years later, December 1919 saw Ruth infamously traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees, and Wilson awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wilson suffered a stroke late in 1918 and was unable to attend any more baseball games, but if he had he would have done it just like any other fan. Despite having a “presidential lifetime pass,” a tradition starting with Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson always opted to pay for his ticket.

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