INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Just in time for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Harry S Truman Presidential Library is opening a special exhibit featuring Harry and Bess Trumans love of the All-American sport: baseball.
“Presidential Pitch” curator Clay Bauske enjoyed sorting through the archives, finding things like baseballs autographed by Yogi Berra, letters from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson and a baseball from a movie called “The Winning Team” autographed by the movie’s star, Ronald Reagan.
Bauske also found editorial cartoons using baseball metaphors, including one showing Truman throwing a curve ball to republicans.
Truman may not have thrown any actual curve balls but he did throw out the first pitch for many baseball seasons, including the first ever pitch when the Athletics moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City.
“Harry Truman is the first and believe only president who threw out first pitches of the baseball season both left handed and right handed, so he was ambidextrous,” says Bauske.
Maybe the Kansas City Blues liked Truman’s arm. Bauske also found an actual contract – with a $1 signing bonus – to play for the minor league team.
“That was in 1953 after he left the presidency, obviously he’s not going to play baseball,” Bauske says chuckling.
Bess Truman was actually the bigger baseball fan, Harry once said she was a very graceful player. On the other hand, Harry didn’t play much as a boy because of poor eyesight.
“So in baseball games he was often asked to be the umpire,” says Bauske. “Ironic since his eyesight was bad.”
Truman attended more games while president, than any other president. He started in 1945, after World War Two ended, because he hoped going to the game would be a symbol of peace returning to the nation. In all, he attended 16 games while president.
For comparison, President Richard Nixon was also a big baseball fan but only attended 11 games, and George W Bush (who was also a baseball team owner before becoming president) only went to 10 games while in office.
The exhibit opens Friday and ends shortly after the All-Star game leaves town. But as Harry himself once said, “May the sun never set on American baseball.”