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Both President Bushes to throw out first pitch at World Series on Sunday

George W. Bush, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers, and George H.W. Bush are tabbed for the duty before Game 4 in Arlington, Texas. They aren't seeking office, but other politicians are seeking to get their messages out during baseball's Fall Classic.

October 29, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli | Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — It's only fitting for a World Series being played amid a high-stakes political campaign.

Major League Baseball announced Friday that not one but two former presidents -- George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush -- will throw out the ceremonial first pitches Sunday before Game 4 of the 2010 Fall Classic at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Many had suspected that the younger Bush could be called on for the honors, but it seems baseball opted for a Texas two-step by inviting both former commanders-in-chief.

George W. Bush was a part-owner and managing general partner of the Rangers before entering politics, selling his share in 1998 as he ran for a second term as Texas governor. Now a Dallas resident, he's been on hand for several of the team's early round playoff games, including the first game of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.

The elder Bush, who lives near Houston, was a regular at the Astros' home games during the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox.

Both men have often had first-pitch honors at ballparks across the country, but only George W. Bush has done so in a World Series. In 2001, he threw a strike from the mound at Yankee Stadium in New York before Game 3, a gesture meant to signal America's resolve just weeks after the devastating terrorist attack on that city.

"I vowed I'd never go to the World Series unless the Rangers got in," he told a group of umpires before the game, as captured in the documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero."

Nine years later, his favored Rangers are finally there, for the first time in franchise history. But they head back to Texas trailing after the National League champion Giants won the first two games at home in San Francisco.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents the city, was on hand with her family for the second game, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. She and her husband are season-ticket holders, according to a spokesman.

Both Bush and Pelosi have found themselves political boogeymen in the campaign, making the Texas-San Francisco matchup all the more appropriate this year. The Democratic speaker has been demonized in scores of Republican television ads. The White House and President Obama briefly went on the offensive against his predecessor, and some Democratic candidates have tied their GOP opponents to his legacy.

In recent weeks, other campaigns have sought to capitalize on the baseball excitement in an effort to score votes. Meg Whitman's campaign for governor of California aired television ads during Fox's broadcast of the game in San Francisco. The conservative Club for Growth today launches a baseball-themed radio ad in the Bay Area market targeting Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney.

"Politics is a lot like baseball, except that the wrong player at the wrong time can cost you your job," an announcer says.

In Texas, Democrat Bill White recently e-mailed supporters of his gubernatorial campaign with a fundraising appeal so he could get on television in Dallas during World Series broadcasts.

"We have a chance to reach hundreds of thousands of Texans on TV who are still undecided about which candidate to support," he wrote.

Other Democrats have extra incentive to root for San Francisco to hold on and win the Series. The last five times a National League team won the title in a year with a midterm election, Democrats went on to gain seats in the House that November, dating back to 1954 when the Giants, then playing in New York, last were baseball's champions.

The Bushes' first pitch will take place Sunday night. Another president -- Rangers team president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan -- will throw the first pitch for the first home game Saturday.

If the Rangers can win at least two games at home, the World Series won't conclude until after Election Day.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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