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Donald Trump skipping the Opening Day first pitch doesn't actually break a tradition

President Donald Trump rejected the Washington Nationals’ invitation to have him throw out the first pitch at the team’s home opener on April 3, citing a “scheduling conflict.”

The tradition dates back to 1910 when Howard Taft did a favor to then-American League president Ban Johnson by throwing out the first pitch for the Washington Senators as a way to boost attendance. Since then, the list of ceremonial first pitches is long.

Presidential First Pitches

Years President Seasons skipped
Years President Seasons skipped
1910, 1911 Howard Taft None
1913-1916 Woodrow Wilson None
1921-1923 Warren Harding None
1924-1928 Calvin Coolidge None
1929-1932 Herbert Hoover None
1933-1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt One (1939)
1946-1952 Harry Truman None
1953-1960 Dwight Eisenhower Two (1957,1959)
1961-1963 John F. Kennedy None
1964-1967 Lyndon Johnson None
1969, 1973 Richard Nixon Five (1968,1970,1971,1972,1974)
1976 Gerald Ford One (1975)
1984, 88 Ronald Regan Six (1981,1982,1983,1985,1986,1987)
1989-92 George H.W. Bush None
1993, 94, 96, 97, 2000 Bill Clinton Three (1995,1998,1999)
2001, 2003-08 George W. Bush One (2002)
2010 Barack Obama Seven (2009,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016)
Ceremonial First Pitches

Skipping the first pitch isn’t anything new. A lot of presidents did, especially when they started slacking in the 1970s. Presidents have declined 26 times in the 107 years since Taft threw out the first pitch, meaning that actually seeing the first pitch thrown by the president happens just 75.8 percent of seasons. George W. Bush was the only president since FDR to throw out the pitch in the majority of his years in office.

It’s understandable why a president might want to skip the first pitch. It’s a stressful moment where nonathletic people need to pretend they’re athletic in front of thousands of people. Obama explained the pressure last year.

"We do a lot of tough stuff as president. And by definition you don’t end up being president if you don’t handle stress well. [But] nothing is more stressful than throwing a first pitch,"

George W. Bush was pretty decent at throwing out first pitches.

Obama’s pitch in 2010 was very bad.

However, nobody comes close to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 when it comes to bad presidential first pitches. There isn’t video or photographic evidence of the pitch, but it was so wild it hit a photographer from The Washington Post and damaged his camera.

Despite presidents skipping the first pitch being as much of a modern tradition as them actually throwing the ball, people are upset.

The ceremonial first pitch isn’t really a 100-year-old tradition, even if it feels like one. Some presidents throw out the pitch regularly, others don’t — and it didn’t have some deep-rooted symbolic meaning in the American psyche: It was to boost attendance when baseball was struggling.

That said, we could be seeing a lot more of these on opening day.