The Presidents and the Pastime


The Presidents and the Pastime

The History of Baseball and the White House

Curt Smith

504 pages
24 photographs, 1 illustration, index

Look inside the Book

June 2018


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2018


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

June 2018


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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.

Author Bio

Curt Smith is the author of seventeen books, including the classic history of baseball broadcasting, Voices of The Game. His other books include: Pull Up a Chair: The Vin Scully Story (Potomac Books, 2009), Mercy! A Celebration of Fenway Park’s Centennial (Potomac Books, 2012), and most recently, George H. W. Bush: Character at the Core (Potomac Books, 2014). Smith is a senior lecturer of English at the University of Rochester, a Gate House Media columnist, and a contributor to publications from Newsweek to the New York Times. The host of the “Voices of The Game” series at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, he has been named to the Judson Welliver Society of former presidential speechwriters.



"Curt Smith, a former White House speechwriter, delves into the considerable relationship presidents have had with baseball, perhaps the most American of sports."—Ed Sherman, Chicago Tribune

"The Presidents and the Pastime is smartly written. . . . Smith writes in a conversational tone that sports fans and historians can appreciate. . . . Smith has produced a balanced view of the presidents' interaction with baseball that is easy to digest."—Bob D'Angelo, Sport in American History

"As a former presidential speechwriter and the author of Voices of the Game, the classic history of baseball broadcasting, Smith is the ideal person to unearth a rich vein of anecdotal material."—Ross Atkin, Christian Science Monitor

"The Presidents and the Pastime is a sunny book and a perfect summer read. While acknowledging faults, Smith focuses on the good in baseball, and the presidents covered regardless of party."—Mark Lardas, Galveston County Daily News

"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."—Bill Martinez Live

"Smith's book makes clear baseball's indelible mark on our national life and the president's own role in baseball's annual cycle. This comes through most clearly in his account of FDR—the president who more than any of his predecessors forged a personal bond with the American people, primarily through their radios but also through baseball."—Adam J. White, Weekly Standard

"Filled with anecdotes galore the result of intensive research, this terrific tome tantalizingly teases us with a new awareness of the subject matter."—Harvey Frommer, Baseball Reflections

"[The Presidents and the Pastime] is chock-full of interesting anecdotes that get to the heart of this long-standing relationship between the White House and the emerald diamond. We learn that the popularity of our national pastime among presidents may actually predate the presidency. Before becoming "the father of our country," George Washington found relief from the stresses of the Revolutionary War by playing the British game of rounders, an antecedent to baseball."—Scott Pitoniak, Rochester Business Journal

"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. . . . Baseball fans, history buffs and political junkies will all love this book."—Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

"The Presidents and the Pastime is ultimately very satisfying, on the one hand a primer—or reminder—of the notable events (and sometimes scandals) of each administration, and on the other an examination of the changes in the game throughout the last 110 years, in particular. From Reagan's game recreations on Des Moines radio to Nixon's "Dream Team" selections to Taft's first pitch and inadvertent original "seventh inning stretch," Smith details it all in a book The Gipper would surely be proud of."—Jerry Milani, Gotham Baseball

"Curt Smith is perhaps uniquely qualified to combine these two subjects into one book. The former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush is a SABR member with over a dozen baseball titles over the past 40 years. . . . The Presidents and the Pastime is Smith's best baseball book since Voices of the Game."—Andrew Milner, Inside Game

"The Presidents and the Pastime provides a riveting narrative of how America's leaders have treated baseball. From William Howard Taft as the first president to throw the "first pitch" on Opening Day in 1910 to Barack 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."—Jason Schott, Brooklyn Fans

"Smith’s storytelling is comprehensive and vivid, and the sheer scale of the narrative reminds us of the resilience and importance of an institutional relationship as old as the Republic itself."—Chris Brikett, Presidential History Network

“Curt Smith’s book is about so much more than just sports and politics. He brings us back to a less complicated America that loved its baseball and its presidents. In his wonderful prose and use of quotes, Smith enriches each institution and shows how vital this relationship has been to America. This is cultural history at its best and storytelling the way we love it.”—John Zogby, founder of the Zogby Poll and author of We Are Many, We Are One and The Way We’ll Be

“Curt Smith has delivered a gem of a doubleheader. His book is a superb blend of baseball lore and presidential history. He sharpens our images of our presidents over the last century and a half in a wonderful collection of anecdotal reflections relating the impact of baseball on the lives of America’s chief executives. A great read for baseball fans and history buffs.”—John H. Sununu, chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush and author of The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H. W. Bush

“Add The Presidents and the Pastime to what you love about baseball, politics, or both. Smith proves a master storyteller. Who knew that Andrew Johnson was a hero to the game, President McKinley dropped the ball, Teddy Roosevelt was not a fan, but President Taft sure was? Smith’s recollection of George W. Bush at Yankee Stadium for the first pitch after 9/11 will send chills and bring tears.”—Bruce DuMont, founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications and host of Beyond the Beltway

“Curt Smith marvelously captures the baseball-presidential connection. His anecdotes and research are remarkable. This classic follows each president and his family from the earliest baseball era through FDR saving the game to political rivals but fellow fans Nixon and Kennedy onward to the love of the game felt by Bess Truman and Lillian Carter. As a history major and baseball broadcaster for almost forty years, I found Curt’s masterpiece irresistible.”—Joe Castiglione, radio voice of the Boston Red Sox 

The Presidents and the Pastime is a treasure for anyone who loves hardball, proving that the link between our commanders in chief and baseball is more than awkward first pitches and giant mascot races. Nobody is more qualified to discuss this fascinating connection than author and baseball historian Curt Smith, who goes deep in illuminating the game’s great influence on a wonderful aspect of American history.”—Dave Kaplan, founding director of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Beginnings: 1700s to Theodore Roosevelt, 1901–1909
2. Power of Two: William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, 1909–1921
3. Triple Play: Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover, 1921–1933
4. “The Champ”: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933–1945
5. The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman, 1945–1953
6. “From the Heart of America”: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953–1961
7. “The First Irish Brahmin”: John F. Kennedy, 1961–1963
8. Larger Than Life: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–1969
9. Nixon’s the One: Richard Nixon, 1969–1974
10. “Friendship, a Perfect Blendship!”: Gerald Ford, 1974–1977
11. From Softball to Hardball: Jimmy Carter, 1977–1981
12. The Gipper: Ronald Reagan, 1981–1989
13. The Baseball Lifer: George H. W. Bush, 1989–1993
14. Our Man Bill: William Jefferson Clinton, 1993–2001
15. W.: George W. Bush, 2001–2009
16. The Pioneer: Barack Obama, 2009–2017
17. The Donald and the Game: Donald Trump, 2017–

Also of Interest