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Fan’s view: Best Opening Day first pitches in the history of Major League Baseball
Baseball fans love tradition, and one tradition they all get behind is the ceremonial first pitch, especially on Opening Day.
The tradition has been around nearly as long as baseball itself, where guests of honor would originally be asked to toss a ball from the grandstand, which eventually progressed to the ball being tossed from the mound (or in front of it depending on the strength of the thrower) to a member of the home team.
Considering how it's been used throughout the years, both to honor men and women across the nation, great and ordinary alike, it's no wonder it's so popular a tradition among the fans. They've seen everyone from presidents of the United States to construction workers afforded the honor.
William Howard Taft was the first president to throw out a ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, beginning a tradition all those who followed him into office have kept up through the years.
There have been other great ceremonial first pitches on Opening Day other than the presidential pitches that have taken place over the past century, but many of the presidential ones were some of the best in the history of the game.
Following is a list of the five best ceremonial first pitches thrown on Opening Day in Major League Baseball history:
5. President Obama Throws Out First Pitch, Opening Day 2010 at Nationals Ballpark
I could have included a number of ceremonial first pitches, including many others by presidents. However, I felt the significance of both the first and the last ceremonial first pitches to have been thrown out by presidents, coming 100 years apart, had special significance.
On Monday, April 5, 2010 , nearly a hundred years to the day after President Taft began the tradition, with 41,290 screaming fans in attendance, President Barack Obama continued it by throwing out the first pitch at Nationals Ballpark before Washington was literally destroyed by the Philadelphia Phillies 11-1 on the day.
I remember watching this on television and being proud for a while to be an American. Wearing a red Washington Nationals jacket, Obama walked up onto the field after being announced and proceeded to shake hands with some military men being honored that day. He then walked to the mound and after a quick few windups, threw a pitch high and outside to Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman(notes) (see the video).
4. Yogi Berra Throws Out First Pitch, Opening Day 2009 at New Yankee Stadium
On Thursday, April 16, 2009 , the New Yankee Stadium finally opened for business. Costing a gaudy $1.5 billion, it has been criticized by many, and called by some a disaster in the making. However, on that spring day it held 48,271 enthralled fans who watched legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra walk out to about 15 feet in front of the mound and toss a strike (see the video).
Although the Cleveland Indians then proceeded to pound the Bronx Bombers 10-2 with Cliff Lee(notes) (now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies) pitching a strong game to get the win, Yankees fans probably still came away from the day happy, and the boys from the "Big Apple" would come back and claim their first victory in the new stadium 6-2 over the Indians the next day.
Berra, who is known for his many malapropisms (many probably never even said by him), had the following to say about the new stadium, "It's a beautiful park. Everybody that sits here gets their money's worth. They can see everything. It definitely pays tribute but nothing will replace the old Yankee Stadium. They've done their best. It's a new one, a new chapter in Yankee history." (Larry Fine, Reuters)
3. William Howard Taft Throws Out First Ever Presidential First Pitch
How can this pitch not be included in any list of the top ceremonial first pitches thrown on Opening Day in MLB history. The significance of this pitch speaks for itself.
Beginning a tradition that has now lasted more than 100 years, Taft, the largest president in our nation's history at well over 300 lbs., threw the ball from the Grandstand on Opening Day, Thursday, April 14, at National Park in Washington D.C., before a game between the Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics.
I'm sure the MLB schedulers were well aware of the significance of having a team from Philadelphia play against the Nationals 100 years later, giving everything plenty of symmetry, and it just makes this original pitch even more important.
Tossing the ball to the Senators' Walter "Big Train" Johnson, who then proceeded to pitch a one-hit 3-0 shutout over Connie Mack's A's, Taft cemented his name in the annuls of baseball; forever immortalized.
2. Tom Seaver Throws First Pitch to Mike Piazza, Opening Day 2009 at New Citi Field
I was actually supposed to attend this game. I had tickets to the game a friend had purchased so we could go see it, but I broke my ankle the previous Christmas Eve and still wasn't able to walk very well when Opening Day arrived.
Sadly, I was forced to watch it from home on television, but still enjoyed all the ceremonies, which included Seaver tossing a strike to Piazza (see the video) as the first ceremonial first pitch ever to be thrown in the new ballpark of the New York Mets.
Like the other New York team's Opening Day, this one resulted in a loss as the San Diego Padres spoiled the fun for over 41,000 fans in attendance, beating the Mets 6-5. Like the Yankees, though, the Mets got their revenge the next day by winning 7-2 over the Padres.
While the Yankees' first pitch is on this list mainly because of the significance of the New Yankee Stadium replacing the venerable old "House that Ruth Built," the Mets' Opening Day first pitch gained its significance because of the two players involved. Seaver and Piazza are arguably the two best Mets players at their positions—ever.
1. Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory Throws First Pitch, Opening Day 2007 for Reds
This pitch was so bad it had to be included on this list. To me, it's not only the worst first pitch ever thrown (see the video), but because of its absolute comedic value, is the best ever thrown on Opening Day.
Supposedly Mallory had practiced for the event with the University of Cincinnati baseball team, but you'd never know it from watching the Opening Day first pitch that took place in front of 42,720 fans on Monday, April 2, 2007 .
Stepping to the mound, Mallory was to throw it to former ballplayer Eric Davis, but instead became a national joke by throwing it far wide of his intended target.
In fact, the pitch was so wide (left) of the plate, you almost wonder whether Mallory saw someone over that way he thought he was supposed to throw to.
Mallory apparently has a sense of humor about the whole incident, though, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer afterward, "Eric Davis missed the sign. I called for a pitchout."
Thankfully for Reds fans, their team won the day over the Chicago Cubs 5-1.
More from Associated Content:
St. Louis Fans Should Think Hard About Painting Cardinals First-Baseman Albert Pujols as Greedy
All stats and information taken from personal notes and verified at Yahoo! Sports and Baseball-Reference.com .
Read more by Daniel Barber aka Hotnuke at TFS Sports .
Fine, Larry. (2009). Yankees Lose as New $1.5 Billion Stadium Opens . Reuters.
White, Gordon. (2010). Taft Began Tradition 100 Years Ago . ThePilot.com.
Unknown. (unk.). Top 10 Worst First Pitches . Time Magazine.
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