Today will welcome a historic day for America. As the 44th president of the United States is sworn in, it will mark an emotional day for a country that once embraced slavery, and now sees an African-American become president.
Barak Obama is all of this, as well as fan of sports. Here’s but a handful of stories about our 44th president and baseball.
MLB.com to Stream Inauguration
To start, it has been 133 years and 26 United States Presidents since Major League Baseball’s National League was officially formed in 1876. To commemorate the storied history of baseball and its place as a social institution, MLB.com will offer fans live coverage of the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, beginning at 9:00 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
MLB.com will begin its coverage with streams of six past Presidential Inaugurations, including John F. Kennedy (1961), Lyndon B. Johnson (1965), Jimmy Carter (1977), Ronald Reagan (1981), George H. W. Bush (1989) and Bill Clinton (1993). Each of these Presidents have participated in the time-honored tradition of the throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.
Following those historic replays, Vinny Micucci and Hal Bodley will host the “MLB.com Live Inauguration Special” at 11:00 a.m. (EST). Bodley, who attended his first inauguration in 1949, will provide his unique perspective on the national pastime’s connection to the White House through the recollections of his 50-year journalism career and several visits to the White House, the Oval Office and Air Force One while interviewing six sitting U.S. Presidents.
MLB.com will join the official Inauguration ceremony at 11:30 a.m. (EST) and provide a live stream through its conclusion.
White Sox Throw a Party for Their Most Important Fan
The Chicago White Sox organization plans on celebrating the Presidential Inauguration at U.S. Cellular Field, along with sending a furry representative to Washington D.C. for the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony and Parade.
White Sox inauguration activities and participation include:
- An inauguration viewing party at U.S. Cellular Field for all White Sox front office staff, along with special guests from the community (Sox caps required for attendees);
- A congratulatory sign for President-elect Obama at U.S. Cellular Field and on the Dan Ryan Expressway message board;
- White Sox mascot Southpaw will ride on the “Illinois” float in the Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington D.C.
Looking Back on Obama
Here’s some stories that involved Obama and baseball leading up to tomorrow’s historic day:
Obama, as well as all the other presidential candidates that threw their hats into the ring for the presidency, were lampooned by Upper Deck as part of their “Presidential Predictor” collection. Here, Obama (a well-known south side White Sox fan) is portrayed reenacting Jermaine Dye’s catch as a fan.
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As Obama’s coolness factor picked up steam, scores of images and products with his name and/or likeness cropped up across the web. One of the more popular products was tee-shirts bearing the name “Obama” using MLB fonts and uniform colors. MLB Properties, a staunch protector of their brand, put the kibosh on the tees by issuing a cease and desist on making and selling of the shirts, or risk being involved in legal action. The website Obamaofdreams.com had been selling the shirts designed by Morris Levin, a Obama supporter. Still, you have to admit, they were cool.
As the Democratic national convention approached, concerns were raised about whether Hillary Clinton supporters would back Obama, once nominated. Upper Deck, once again, issued a special trading card depicting Obama and Clinton as Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek hoisting up an elated Jonathan Papelbon following the final out of the 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series victory.
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Normally, the selection of a Vice-Presidential running mate is no more than a sidebar to an election, but with John McCains selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a new wild card was thrown into the mix. Upper Deck rushed to create cards for both Palin and Obama selection, Joe Biden. While Upper Deck struggled to find something baseball related with which to use for Palin, Biden was portrayed as longtime Washington Senator's pitcher Walter Johnson.
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In August, Obama was interviewed by Stuart Scott of ESPN, which was then aired on SportsCenter. Obama made it clear that the White Sox were his Chicago alliance.
Scott: “If the Cubs and the White Sox both make it to the World Series?
Obama: “I would be going.”
Scott: “Who would you root for?
Obama: “Oh, that's easy. White Sox. I'm not one of these fair weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. Southside.”
With the election a scant few days away, FOX Sports tapped Obama and McCain for the 2008 World Series. Each candidate recorded inspirational quotes from American icons including Martin Luther King, Jr. and former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy about the game of baseball as a beacon of hope through some of America’s most difficult times. The quotes were woven into the opening segment of each World Series broadcast. Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas narrates the open for World Series Game 1
Select the image above to view in Quicktime
Once Obama was elected, a key election promise began to be talked about by player agents. One of his campaign promises dealt with an increase in taxes for those making more than $250,000 a year, from 35 percent to 39.6 percent as it was during the Clinton administration. That jumpstarted agents into asking for more in the way of signing bonuses in December before 2009 approached.
So, today, a historic day will be all the more historic. The country, now deeply embroiled in a recession, will be relying on Obama to enact change. Going back to that interview with Scott, as the president, Obama could direct how the government approaches performance-enhancing substances in baseball, but he seems to understand that it is a small priority, given the state of the nation.
Scott: “Congress played a vital role through its hearings, and baseball union and players union into more frequent testing for performance enhancing drugs and stricter penalties. When you were watching the hearings, what did you think of them?”
Obama: “I love baseball. Baseball is America's pastime. I'd like to see the baseball Commissioner handle this without Congress being involved. We've got a lot of stuff on our plate.”
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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