It sure wasn’t pretty, but the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., will memorialize President Obama’s first presidential pitch anyway.
Obama has donated the puffy White Sox jacket he wore when he threw out the opening pitch at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. The donation was at the museum’s request, Obama explained Thursday as he announced his contribution to the official record of baseball history.
The left-hander seemed aware that he had some explaining to do about the gift. Not only was his pitch a wobbly toss that would have fallen short of the plate if not for catcher Albert Pujols’ face-saving pickup, the president wore baggy “mom” jeans. At the time, the combination united the sports and fashion world in mockery of the new president.
“I hear that with all the media attention about it, there was also some interest in the jeans I wore that night,” Obama joked Thursday. “But Michelle retired those jeans quite a while back.”
Obama announced the donation after a tour of the museum, during which he marveled at Joe DiMaggio’s glove, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s shoes and a book of Jackie Robinson’s statistics.
The president declared his love for baseball and noted that “it continues to be our national pastime.” Still, there’s little doubt the Obama’s longest love is basketball. The night he threw out that first pitch in St. Louis, he acknowledged he didn’t play organized baseball as a kid and “some of these natural moves aren’t so natural to me.”
Still, the visit made Obama the first sitting president to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, a fact that seems hard to imagine given politicians' penchant for using the national pastime to relate to the nation’s voters. (Other presidents have visited before and after holding the office.)
The White House declared that the distinction of being the first was not the president’s only reason for the trip. In his brief remarks, Obama touted his administration’s attempts to boost international tourism and said he had directed officials to try speeding up international travel at airports.
“We want to bring in more visitors faster, more jobs faster. If they come into JFK faster, they come into LaGuardia faster, then they can get to Cooperstown faster,” Obama said. “And they can start seeing Joe DiMaggio’s glove faster, and they can see Babe Ruth’s bat faster.”