Baseball, Politics Long Intertwined

Photograph by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images

President William Howard Taft with some of the players from the Washington Senators.

Political Economy welcomes you to a new major-league baseball season, recognizing the long relationship between the sport and politics.

Beginning with William Howard Taft in 1910, the president traditionally has thrown a ceremonial “first pitch” to inaugurate a major-league baseball season. Members of Congress play a game each year (the Republicans were bedeviled by Cedric Richmond’s fastball last year). President Barack Obama is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan. His predecessor, George W. Bush, was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers. And remember Red Sox great Curt Schilling’s backing of Scott Brown in a Massachusetts Senate race two years ago?

Some former major-leaguers have run for Congress — Walter Johnson, the all-time shutouts leader, lost a 1940 bid in Maryland — and a few won. Here’s a look at some of them:

Jim Bunning (Republican). The Hall of Fame pitcher won 224 games and threw a no-hitter in both leagues, including a perfect game for the Phillies in 1964, before representing Kentucky in the House from 1987 to 1999 and the Senate from 1999 to 2011. He didn’t run for re-election in 2010.

Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell (Republican). Mizell pitched for the Cardinals, Pirates and Mets before representing North Carolina in the House from 1969 to 1975. He and many other Republicans were defeated for re-election in 1974, three months after President Richard M. Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal.

Pius Schwert (Democrat). Schwert, a catcher for the New York Yankees, represented New York in the House from 1939 until his death in 1941.

Fred Brown (Democrat). Brown was an outfielder for the Boston Beaneaters, a forerunner of the Atlanta Braves, before serving as New Hampshire’s governor in the 1920s and as a U.S. senator in the 1930s.

John Tener (Republican). Tener, a pitcher and outfielder for three teams, represented Pennsylvania in the House from 1909 to 1911 and then served four years as governor.



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