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The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House

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The Presidents and the Pastime draws on Curt Smith’s extensive background as a former White House presidential speechwriter to chronicle the historic relationship between baseball, the “most American” sport, and the U.S. presidency. Smith, who USA TODAY calls “America’s voice of authority on baseball broadcasting,” starts before America’s birth, when would‑be presidents pl The Presidents and the Pastime draws on Curt Smith’s extensive background as a former White House presidential speechwriter to chronicle the historic relationship between baseball, the “most American” sport, and the U.S. presidency. Smith, who USA TODAY calls “America’s voice of authority on baseball broadcasting,” starts before America’s birth, when would‑be presidents played baseball antecedents. He charts how baseball cemented its reputation as America’s pastime in the nineteenth century, such presidents as Lincoln and Johnson playing town ball or giving employees time off to watch. Smith tracks every U.S. president from Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump, each chapter filled with anecdotes: Wilson buoyed by baseball after suffering disability; a heroic FDR saving baseball in World War II; Carter, taught the game by his mother, Lillian; Reagan, airing baseball on radio that he never saw—by “re-creation.” George H. W. Bush, for whom Smith wrote, explains, “Baseball has everything.” Smith, having interviewed a majority of presidents since Richard Nixon, shares personal stories on each. Throughout, The Presidents and the Pastime provides a riveting narrative of how America’s leaders have treated baseball. From Taft as the first president to throw the “first pitch” on Opening Day in 1910 to Obama’s “Go Sox!” scrawled in the guest register at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, our presidents have deemed it the quintessentially American sport, enriching both their office and the nation.  


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The Presidents and the Pastime draws on Curt Smith’s extensive background as a former White House presidential speechwriter to chronicle the historic relationship between baseball, the “most American” sport, and the U.S. presidency. Smith, who USA TODAY calls “America’s voice of authority on baseball broadcasting,” starts before America’s birth, when would‑be presidents pl The Presidents and the Pastime draws on Curt Smith’s extensive background as a former White House presidential speechwriter to chronicle the historic relationship between baseball, the “most American” sport, and the U.S. presidency. Smith, who USA TODAY calls “America’s voice of authority on baseball broadcasting,” starts before America’s birth, when would‑be presidents played baseball antecedents. He charts how baseball cemented its reputation as America’s pastime in the nineteenth century, such presidents as Lincoln and Johnson playing town ball or giving employees time off to watch. Smith tracks every U.S. president from Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump, each chapter filled with anecdotes: Wilson buoyed by baseball after suffering disability; a heroic FDR saving baseball in World War II; Carter, taught the game by his mother, Lillian; Reagan, airing baseball on radio that he never saw—by “re-creation.” George H. W. Bush, for whom Smith wrote, explains, “Baseball has everything.” Smith, having interviewed a majority of presidents since Richard Nixon, shares personal stories on each. Throughout, The Presidents and the Pastime provides a riveting narrative of how America’s leaders have treated baseball. From Taft as the first president to throw the “first pitch” on Opening Day in 1910 to Obama’s “Go Sox!” scrawled in the guest register at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, our presidents have deemed it the quintessentially American sport, enriching both their office and the nation.  

42 review for The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    Two of the most American of institutions are the Presidency and the game of baseball. They have been intertwined together for over a century – from Abraham Lincoln playing “town ball” to Barack Obama writing “Go Sox!” in the visitor book at the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are many stories of what the game has meant to Presidents. They are captured in this wonderful book by Curt Smith, a former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush. Every story that has been passed down through the generations is sh Two of the most American of institutions are the Presidency and the game of baseball. They have been intertwined together for over a century – from Abraham Lincoln playing “town ball” to Barack Obama writing “Go Sox!” in the visitor book at the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are many stories of what the game has meant to Presidents. They are captured in this wonderful book by Curt Smith, a former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush. Every story that has been passed down through the generations is shared here. The book may disprove a myth such as William Howard Taft inventing the seventh inning stretch, which did not happen. It may explain in more detail about well-known events as Commissioner Landis did offer to suspend baseball before Franklin Roosevelt wrote the “Green Light Letter”. Or, the reader may learn a new fact like this: Calvin Coolidge was not the baseball person in his family as that was his wife Grace who was the scorekeeper at the University of Vermont and kept a perfect scorecard at each game she and her husband attended. Even bigger surprises may be found in the book, such as learning that Donald Trump was actually a good ballplayer. One other interesting fact is that the first President to attend a baseball game at any level was Andrew Johnson. Also in the nineteenth century, Benjamin Harrison became the first President to attend a professional baseball game. Once the calendar turns to the 20th century, Smith covers each president from Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump by describing not only that man’s connection to baseball, but also a little bit about each man’s term in office and the accomplishments. The book stays politically neutral with two notable exceptions. One is that Smith has much respect for his former boss as he looked fondly back at George H.W.Bush. The best baseball story for him is a “summit” he called in 1991 with Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio to honor the 50th anniversary of their achievements of 1941 – Williams hitting .406 and DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. Why this was called a “summit” is that after the speeches in the Rose Garden, the President and his two guests flew to Toronto in Air Force One to meet Canadian Prime Minister before that year’s All-Star game. The one area where there is really no neutrality is that Smith felt that when Washington D.C. lost its major league team (twice) Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon did not do enough to stop the teams from leaving. They were the men in the White House when the first team left after the 1960 season for Minnesota and the second team, an expansion team awarded to Washington to ease the pain, left after the 1971 season. This is just a very small sample of the many stories connecting baseball and the presidency. Even Presidents whose reputation for sport lies elsewhere, such at Theodore Roosevelt and Gerald Ford in football, the reader will lean how each president has a baseball connection. This book is rich with so many stories, it is one that is very hard to put down. Baseball fans, history buffs and political junkies will all love this book. I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. http://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/201...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    Awesome book! It was interesting to read about how important baseball was to the Presidents, despite political affiliation. This book reinforced the idea that baseball is America’s pastime!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    I received a free Kindle copy of The Presidents and the Pastime by Curt Smith courtesy of Net Galley  and University of Nebraska Press, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages. I requested this book as I am a fan of baseball and american history and the description made this book sound interesting. This is the I received a free Kindle copy of The Presidents and the Pastime by Curt Smith courtesy of Net Galley  and University of Nebraska Press, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages. I requested this book as I am a fan of baseball and american history and the description made this book sound interesting. This is the first book by Curt Smith that I have read. I had high hopes for this book, but the author's writing style and tendency, particularly in the latter chapters where the reader is more familiar with the subject, to drone on made this a less enjoyable read than it could have been. The book covers the span of Presidents from Lincoln to Trump and does reveal some new information, but most of it is well known  to hard core baseball fans. I suggest that if you decide to read this book that you take it in small doses over a period of time as it can get mind numbing if one tries to read it in a brief period of time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joel Page

    Outstanding!!! Curt Smith can sure write baseball!! Wonderfully written. the history of the game is clearly outlined through the presidents. Not just a history lesson in baseball but also in American presidential history.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barry Sparks

    A near perfect blend of the history of baseball and the White House.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Collier

    A very good (but long) book about US Presidents and baseball. It was as a great read with lots of great information on how the two live up to each other.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Are you interested in the Office of the President in the United States? Are you interested in the sport of baseball? If you answered yes to both of these questions, or even just one of them, then this book is for you. From stories you probably know like the first presidential first pitch and George W. Bush's first pitch in a post 9/11 United states, to the lesser known disdain Teddy Roosevelt had for baseball, you will learn quite a I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. Are you interested in the Office of the President in the United States? Are you interested in the sport of baseball? If you answered yes to both of these questions, or even just one of them, then this book is for you. From stories you probably know like the first presidential first pitch and George W. Bush's first pitch in a post 9/11 United states, to the lesser known disdain Teddy Roosevelt had for baseball, you will learn quite a bit about how MLB and the president have interacted throughout time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zack

    When I first saw this title and description I was pretty excited to read it. Politics and baseball go hand in hand, and given Curt Smith's background (writer for Bush 41), this should have been phenomenal. However, much of the book is disjointed. The first third of the book, all the chapters before Eisenhower, lack a coherent logic and flow. These chapters had the potential for something amazing to happen - with the increase in popularity of baseball after the civil war in tandem with the rapid When I first saw this title and description I was pretty excited to read it. Politics and baseball go hand in hand, and given Curt Smith's background (writer for Bush 41), this should have been phenomenal. However, much of the book is disjointed. The first third of the book, all the chapters before Eisenhower, lack a coherent logic and flow. These chapters had the potential for something amazing to happen - with the increase in popularity of baseball after the civil war in tandem with the rapid growth and development of the U.S. leading into the world wars, this section of the book could have had a grand arc with wonderful development and description, instead it is largely glossed over with trivia and data. The second third of the book is a mixed bag - the chapters on the Republican presidents (particularly Reagan and Bush 41) are eloquent, thoughtful, insightful, and have a beautiful connection between the presidents and the national pastime. However, the chapters on the Democratic presidents tend to have a number of petty, childish, partisan swipes at their administrations and their character, and as a result the writing suffers. While this is not surprising (as Smith is a partisan himself), it is disappointing in a book with this type of focus. Had Smith written with the same verve and elan as he did for the late 20th century Republicans, this book would have been a classic; it would have been a must read for any baseball fan. However, we are only left to lament what might have been.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    A fascinating and enjoyable -- albeit long-winded -- stroll through two centuries of baseball and presidential history. For you're not just getting stories and anecdotes about the American presidents and their connection with baseball, you're also getting a treatise on the development of the game, from rules changes to historic stadia to franchise moves to cable television. You'll learn that one of the Roosevelts never cared for baseball (he considered it a sissy game); that Abe Lincoln might ha A fascinating and enjoyable -- albeit long-winded -- stroll through two centuries of baseball and presidential history. For you're not just getting stories and anecdotes about the American presidents and their connection with baseball, you're also getting a treatise on the development of the game, from rules changes to historic stadia to franchise moves to cable television. You'll learn that one of the Roosevelts never cared for baseball (he considered it a sissy game); that Abe Lincoln might have been the original Sultan of Swat; and that Truman could throw out the first pitch on opening day with both his left and right arms. Even more interesting , you'll find out that some first ladies, notably Bess Truman and Pat Nixon, were addicted to the game. Bess even kept her own scorebook. The best recommendation is to treat this book like a 162-game season, and delve in and out of it over the course of the summer. That's in part because the latter chapters are way too long, especially since most readers will already be familiar with much of the material covered from Reagan onward. You'll have to pace yourself, just like pitchers in the bygone era of complete games did for all nine innings.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  11. 5 out of 5

    Natalia HA

  12. 5 out of 5

    montogma25

    Overall, the Presidents and the Pastime did a terrific job weaving in how baseball affected the White House. I learned so much about each president and how they viewed the sport. However, I will say that the book is really long and might actually contain a bit too much information in it. It might have been better if it was separated into two volumes instead of just one book. There was a lot of information to take in. The book also did some time jumping which made it difficult to follow which pre Overall, the Presidents and the Pastime did a terrific job weaving in how baseball affected the White House. I learned so much about each president and how they viewed the sport. However, I will say that the book is really long and might actually contain a bit too much information in it. It might have been better if it was separated into two volumes instead of just one book. There was a lot of information to take in. The book also did some time jumping which made it difficult to follow which president the book was focusing on. Despite all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and am planning on recommending it to the library where I work when I get the chance to.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim Townsend

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wood

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather Lowther

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kkuscin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Kirk

  22. 5 out of 5

    J Lef

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tim Schneider

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Herron

  26. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Paquette

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Moats

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam Miller

  31. 5 out of 5

    Marlee Jacobs

  32. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Renner

  33. 5 out of 5

    Bill F.

  34. 4 out of 5

    Sara Elizabeth

  35. 5 out of 5

    Brad Ververs

  36. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Konis

  37. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  38. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  39. 5 out of 5

    Angela Karnes

  40. 5 out of 5

    Roberta Murphy

  41. 5 out of 5

    Chris Meisner

  42. 4 out of 5

    Tim Hamilton

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