Washington Post Quotes Historian Ryan Swanson in Article about Teddy Roosevelt and BaseballHistorians in the News
tags: baseball, presidential history, Teddy Roosevelt, Sports History
“Father and all of us regarded baseball as a mollycoddle game,” his daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, once said. “Tennis, football, lacrosse, boxing, polo, yes — they are violent, which appealed to us. But baseball? Father wouldn’t watch it, not even at Harvard.”
This drove the lords of baseball insane, a story vividly and rather hilariously told by University of New Mexico sports historian Ryan Swanson in his new book “The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete.”
“He doesn’t think it fits into what he thinks sports should be,” Swanson said in an interview. “Roosevelt thinks sports should make Americans better citizens. They should test themselves physically.”
Roosevelt never admitted it, but Swanson also suspects his opinion of the sport might have also developed from his inability to play it. Roosevelt had poor eyesight even before he lost the use of one eye during a White House boxing match.
Stepping into a batter’s box might have gotten Roosevelt killed.
“At one point, he says he fears nothing like he fears a baseball coming at him in the dark,” Swanson said.
Whatever the reason, baseball officials went to extraordinary lengths to turn Roosevelt into a baseball fan, an “effort anchored,” Swanson wrote, in “a broader plan meant to link the president to baseball.”
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