A couple weeks ago, I made a batting order of my favorite writers. Inspired by a post from Joe Posnanski which compared Manny Ramirez and Lyndon Johnson, I’ve decided to go one step further and offer a starting lineup of former US presidents. These aren’t my favorite presidents, necessarily, and this isn’t meant to correspond closely to playing ability, which is why I didn’t include former amateur players Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush. But I believe my players would bring other strengths to this team and make it a memorable one.
The team is as follows:
P- Thomas Jefferson: A good pitcher is creative, visionary, and smart, and Jefferson was all of these things and more between writing the Declaration of Independence, designing his country estate, Monticello and the University of Virginia. As a plus, he was tall for the 18th century at just under 6’3″ which is like 6’8″ in today’s terms. For height, Jefferson was the Randy Johnson of presidents. The fact that Jefferson could write with either hand might not hurt him on this team, either.
C- Teddy Roosevelt: Who better for catcher than a future president who insisted on fighting in the Spanish American War, a man with an oak barrel in place of an upper body, a fellow whose face on Mount Rushmore seems to say, Go ahead and try to beat that tag, this isn’t going to end well. Even Pete Rose would shy from the confrontation.
1B- George Washington: First base is a good place for mythical stoics and leaders, which suggests America’s first president. There was talk of making him king in his time, though Washington declined it for fear of being a monarch. Nonetheless, his presence on this team would be regal.
2B- Lyndon Johnson: As Posnanski wrote, LBJ was famous in his many years in Congress for the influence he wielded over other lawmakers, often able to push successfully for their votes. He’d thrive at a position where he’d get a high number of opportunities in the field and a chance to matter in a good chunk of the plays.
SS- John F. Kennedy: JFK would be one of the stars of this team with his good looks and natural athletic ability, even if he demonstrates an ill-advised though effective penchant for performing Ozzie Smith-esque back flips at short. He’d form an interesting double play combo with his former vice president Johnson who may or may not have factored into his assassination.
3B- Abraham Lincoln: At 6’4″ Lincoln is this team’s tallest member, which allows for a looping pull swing. One of history’s greatest if homeliest presidents, Lincoln also pre-qualifies for baseball’s All Ugly Team.
RF- Warren Harding: Fred Lieb noted in his memoir that Babe Ruth was a Democrat but almost endorsed Harding in the 1920 Presidential Election in exchange for $4,000. Thus, we’ll give Ruth’s position to Harding, whose presidency was marked by the Tea Pot Dome Scandal and his death two years in.
CF- Richard Nixon: I’m guessing Tricky Dick could play a deceptively shallow center field, Tris Speaker in the field with Albert Belle’s abrasiveness. His third person, post-game interviews would be classic, with quips like, “Dick Nixon knew that if Tim Wakefield threw him the knuckler again, this game was over.”
LF- Ulysses Grant: Rounding out the all-controversial outfield is Grant who succeeded greatly as a Civil War general and then struggled as president in the following decade. He was at least better than the man who came before him, Andrew Johnson (who gave his vice presidential confirmation speech before Senate drunk in 1864) and his successor, Rutherford B. Hayes (who essentially ended Reconstruction.) I’m willing to give Grant a shot.