November 14, 2019

Ronald Reagan: In the Game

Baseball and the presidency go together like a bat and glove. No sport has caught the excitement of the nation’s highest elected official than baseball. And we know of only one president who has had the experience of calling baseball play-by-play:  Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was a 22-year-old sports announcer in Davenport, Iowa, when he heard about a play-by-play opening for the Chicago Cubs of the National League. When the Davenport station merged with NBC national affiliate WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, Reagan was tapped to became the play-by-play announcer for the Cubs from 1933-1935.

Now, baseball is saluting the former president with a series of partnerships with at least eight Major League Baseball teams including storied franchises such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation says these MLB events will allow hundreds of thousands of baseball fans a way to celebrate the 100th birthday of President Reagan.

The “Ronald Reagan 100 – Major League Baseball Tributes” started May 2 with the San Diego Padres as they played the Pittsburgh Pirates at Petco Park. At that game, Austin Dillon, co-chair of the Reagan Centennial National Youth Committee and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver for Richard Childress Racing and driver of the No. 98 Curb Records/Childress Institute-Reagan Centennial in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, threw out the first pitch. And national country recording artist Tim Dugger, member of the Reagan Centennial National Youth Committee, sang the national anthem

There was also a MLB video tribute to Reagan, narrated by Chris Rose of FOX Sports and MLB Network. It’s now available for you to see at: www.youtube.com/reaganfoundation.

“The legacy of Ronald Reagan continues to inspire us today,” said Padres vice chairman and CEO Jeff Moorad. “From sportscaster to fan, President Reagan was a legendary part of the game. The Padres organization is honored to remember him with this special tribute during the Centennial year of his birth.”

These and other tributes are planned such as giveaways of Jelly Belly jelly beans, Reagan’s favorite treat to lucky baseball fans.

“The fact that eight of the 30 Major League Baseball teams have chosen to honor President Reagan in a special way during this historic Centennial year shows that his legacy is as alive and well today,” said executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation’s Centennial Celebration, Stewart McLaurin. “These partnerships continue the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation’s commitment to facilitate ‘something for everyone’ during the Ronald Reagan Centennial year.

“From academic symposia with Notre Dame, Georgetown, and the US Naval Academy later this Fall to the unveiling of statues in London and Washington, DC, this summer, 2011 offers a historic opportunity to honor the life, legacy, and leadership of the 40th President of the United States.”

MLB teams that will honor President Reagan during the Centennial year of his birth include the Padres, Dodgers, Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. It’s too bad all of them didn’t step up to the plate.

As President, Reagan threw out the first pitch at three major league baseball games: two for the Baltimore Orioles (1984, 1986), and one for the Cubs (1988). On September 30, 1988, he filled in for announcer Harry Caray during a Cubs’ game. During the broadcast, Reagan said, “You know in a few months I’m going to be out of work, and I thought I might as well audition.”

After serving in the White House, President Reagan assumed his once familiar seat as baseball announcer, next to the legendary Vin Scully, during the 1989 All Star Game in Anaheim. During that game, Ronald Reagan saw back-to-back home runs by Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs.

A final note – the Ronald Reagan Centennial Gala on May 24 is a keystone event of this historic tribute year. Mrs. Nancy Regan is expected to make the trip from her southern California home to Washington DC to greet keynoter and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Hon. Leah Walesa, former president of Poland, and the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence Dr. Liam Fox, MP. Many other leaders from politics, business and the arts are also expected to attend the tribute to Reagan’s life and legacy at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

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Written by
George Eichorn

GEORGE EICHORN is the long-time executive director of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association and sports editor and columnist for a Detroit weekly newspaper. For more than three decades, he has covered the Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Championships, and Stanley Cup finals. His articles have been published in the Detroit News, Basketball Times, Basketball Digest, Red Wings Magazine, Baseball Bulletin, Sports Fans Journal, Soccer World, and Bowler’s Digest. During the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, he proudly covered the historic “Miracle on Ice” hockey game when the United States shocked the Soviet Union. Through the years, he has won numerous broadcasting and writing awards, and most recently received the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame’s Special Recognition Award. In 2003, he authored a book about the rich history of Michigan sports broadcasting, Detroit Sports Broadcasters: On the Air, for which the late Detroit Tigers broadcast legend, Ernie Harwell, wrote the forward. He is the married father of two daughters and a graduate of Wayne State University.

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Written by George Eichorn
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