Dueling candidates ‘pitching’ for the job

By Doug Powers

Is how accurately a politician throws a baseball a reason that they should win your vote?

This seemingly ridiculous question came to me while watching John Kerry at a Red Sox-Yankees game, throwing out – or down rather – the first pitch. I cringed, expecting an uproar by animal-rights activists because of rumors that a ground mole that was living 10 feet in front of the plate met it’s demise. In addition, having spent the past few seasons as a Detroit Tigers fan, I suffered traumatic and painful flashbacks due to Kerry’s wild pitch. The latter would make for an ironclad lawsuit … anybody have John Edwards’ phone number?

After the errant toss, Kerry returned to his seat to wait for the catcher, who is a National Guard soldier, to retrieve the ball, which ended up somewhere in Rhode Island. It seems silly that the quality of a pitch by a political figure can instill an onlooker with either confidence, or doubt. Could it be true: Is a wild throw, or a perfect strike, symbolic of something greater? One needs only to recall the time when President Bush, soon after 9-11, threw out the first pitch before game three of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in October of 2001.

The United States had been hit hard. For some of us, our emotional tanks were running low, and in need of something to come and fill them back up. Along came something as seemingly insignificant as a baseball game, with the president taking to the hill. Bush was looking a tad bulky, due to the fact that he had on a bullet proof vest and/or a diminutive Secret Service agent stuffed down his coat, and, despite the hindrance, threw a perfect strike when the country needed it most.

There is a confidence boost that can be taken from successful sporting activities of our leaders, especially during times of stress. The metaphor of a leader “taking the hill” during a crisis, and the ball gliding perfectly over the plate and smacking into the catcher’s mitt, spoke volumes without a word being uttered. Think of what it would have done to our nation’s level of confidence if Bush’s pitch had sailed over the catcher’s head, or was misdirected into the dugout and knocked out Joe Torre.

But it didn’t, and we needed that. We wanted to band together and get on board the bus of patriotism, and we just wouldn’t have been as confident if we’d have seen the driver knock the rear view mirror off while pulling out of the garage, run over a bike, and back into a tree. Yes, something as simple as a pitch can be very important, but then, so can many other seemingly insignificant things.

The outcome of elections have been affected by events that would not appear to matter in the big picture. Kerry need look no further than his fellow Massachusetts presidential wannabe, Michael Dukakis, who one day decided it would be nifty to take a ride on a tank while wearing a helmet that made him look like a Greek bobblehead doll with a khaki wok on it’s head.

This alone didn’t cost Dukakis the election, but it certainly solidified his place in “what not to do” history. In addition to Dukakis, Al Gore’s bid to be president certainly wasn’t helped by the time he showed up to a debate while wearing so much makeup that he looked as if he’d just undergone a “queer makeover.” Because of what many voters could only interpret as Gore’s head-on collision with Tammy Faye Bakker, his credibility suffered.

The same goes for baseball pitches. Couple Kerry’s sorry hurling performance with the recent photos of his tour of NASA facilities while sporting the required garb for such an activity – powder blue hospital gown with matching “peek-a-boo” hood and pie pan cap, and there could be the makings of a full fledged election disaster.

Sure, under normal circumstances, people would forget about these small things and focus on the candidate’s record, but since Kerry is obviously intent on covering up everything that has happened in his life since 1970, things like bad pitches and strange outfits may be all that voters know about him. For now, Kerry’s put baseball behind him, and the only thing he’s focusing on trying to throw out of sight is his 20-year senate voting record.

This might be one of those years when the candidate to choose is, indeed, the one who we know can get the ball over the plate under pressure.