This week marked the 100th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's birth (he died in 1994). One of Nixon's passions was baseball. He attended 11 games while serving in office, and after his presidential days were over, Nixon remained close to the game. In 1985, he mediated a dispute between Major League Baseball and the umpires.
But Nixon's biggest baseball moment came on June 22, 1972, when a reporter covering the upcoming national election asked the President to name his all-time favorite ballplayers. Nixon immediately began to rattle off the names of baseball's best sluggers, from Gehrig to Williams to Musial. His difficulty in choosing just the cream of the crop led the reporter to make a unique request: the first ever presidential All-Star team.
From there, Nixon sat down with his son-in-law David Eisenhower, who had briefly worked for the Washington Senators, at Camp David, where they composed the final rosters. Once complete, the list appeared in national newspapers on June 30 with the president's byline attached to it. Nixon had decided to select pre- and post-war teams for each league. But he did include one caution at the end of his op-ed: "If some smart reporter asks me to name an all-star football team the answer will be a flat - NO!" he wrote.
While some of his selections and reasoning are suspect—for instance, he included shortstop Arky Vaughan because the two had gone to Fullerton High School together—baseball fans seemed pleased with Nixon's appointments. Nixon sent a letter to Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx's daughter, explaining why he had chosen her father as baseball's best first baseman. Read the letter here.
On the 20th anniversary of his original list, Nixon offered an updated version. This time, though, he covered three different eras: 1925-1959, 1960-1991, and a special third category for active players. This time around, some of Nixon's handpicked selections like Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, and Johnny Bench were on hand for the big reveal. Nixon regaled the crowd at the luncheon with tales of seeing Joe DiMaggio homer in a 1936 game in Washington.
The second time around Nixon made headlines when he selected another banished man as National League DH for the common era team. Pete Rose got a fine endorsement.