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Baseball and Society

March 20, 2015 by William McKenzie

“Baseball is our national pastime.” Calvin Coolidge was the president who put those words together. But the nation’s 30th president is hardly the Nation’s only chief executive to acclaim the game.

Baseball is woven deeply into the American identity, so much so that the sport plays a role in the life of even the Oval Office. Presidents have played baseball, cheered for baseball, and even saved baseball.

Abraham Lincoln played catch on the White House lawn with his son. William Howard Taft inaugurated the tradition of presidents throwing out the first pitch. George H.W. Bush captained Yale’s baseball team and played in the original College World Series. Bill Clinton tried to keep a strike from shutting down a season. George W. Bush rallied the nation after 9/11 by taking to the mound at Yankee Stadium before the third game of the 2001 World Series.

Throughout the 2015 season, baseball fans can learn more about the connection between a game considered our national pastime and America’s chief executives. Through October 4, which marks the end of the regular season, the George W. Bush Presidential Center is presenting Baseball: America’s Presidents, America’s Pastime. The special exhibit opens  March 21 at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

During that same time, this blog will look at ways in which baseball mirrors the larger society. Civil rights. Immigration. The role of veterans. Times of crisis. Freedom movements. Women’s issues. The sport often has personified the changes and challenges in our nation and world.

As part of this discussion, we will speak with historians, baseball officials, writers and others who follow the game. We will keep the dialogue going throughout the season. This is a national game, after all, on many different levels.


William McKenzie
William McKenzie

William McKenzie is editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute, where he also serves as editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.

Active in education issues, he participates in the Bush Institute’s school accountability project. And he teaches as an adjunct journalism lecturer at SMU, where he teaches a course on media and politics.

Before joining the Bush Institute, the Fort Worth native served 22 years as an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News and led the newspaper’s Texas Faith blog. The University of Texas graduate’s columns appeared nationwide and he has won a Pulitzer Prize and commentary awards from the Education Writers Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the Texas Headliners Foundation, among other organizations. He still contributes columns and essays for the Morning News.

Before joining the News in 1991, he earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington and spent a dozen years in Washington, D.C. During that time, he edited the Ripon Forum.

McKenzie has served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, on the board of a homeless organization, and on governing committees of a Dallas public school. He also is an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, where he lives with his wife and their twin children.

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