With the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination coming up on Sunday, I coincidentally learned something interesting about our late president.
Turns out he could have been a baseball man, instead.
In finishing The Boys of Summer yesterday, I came upon a passage late in the book that described how Kennedy’s father, Joseph, nearly purchased the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s, after the death of one of its major stockholders, John Smith. Team owner Walter O’Malley told author Roger Kahn about how he’d confronted his fellow shareholder Branch Rickey after hearing rumors.
“I said to Rickey, ‘What’s going on?”‘
“‘Well, with John Smith dead, I feel it’s time to sell. I told Mr. Kennedy you might disagree, but if he acquired my stock and Mrs. Smith’s, he’d have control. He’s got this son, John, who is brilliant in politics but has physical problems. Mr. Kennedy thinks running the Dodgers could be the greatest outlet in the world for John.’
“It might have been Jack Kennedy, president of the Dodgers, but Joe rejected the deal when he found he’d face an unhappy minority stockholder in myself. He didn’t buy, but if he had, Jack Kennedy could be in this chair and alive today.”
I like a little revisionist history as much as the next guy. Here are some other things to ponder.
Dwight Eisenhower played semi-pro baseball, George H.W. Bush played collegiately, and there’s an old rumor that Fidel Castro tried out for the Washington Senators. That never happened, though Castro did play baseball. Meanwhile, George W. Bush thought strongly, back in the ’90s, about becoming commissioner of baseball. The former Texas Rangers owner chose a different path, of course, though in some alternate universe, he got his dream, and Bud Selig instead became president and still found a way to cancel the All Star game.
Ronald Reagan got his start in show business in the 1930s broadcasting sporting events over the radio. Games were broadcast from a studio back then, as opposed to a press box at a ballpark, and the radio men recreated the action from a ticker and were allowed a certain amount of creative license. Apparently, the ticker went down one time for a Chicago Cubs game, and Reagan killed seven minutes of air time making up a story about how some fan caught a foul ball.
No wonder he wrote his own speeches years later.