Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak.
Today is Opening Day in DC and all eyes are on the Nationals, especially their new mascot based on William Howard Taft. Taft is being celebrated as an addition to the ‘Presidents Run’ not only because he was an accomplished statesman and President, but because he is recognized as the first president to ever throw out a ‘first pitch’ on Opening Day, April 11, 1910.
Though the game is mostly remembered for Taft’s first pitch, Walter Johnson was the star, pitching within one hit of a no-hitter for Washington. Frank ‘Home Run’ Baker (who earned his nickname the following year with two dramatic home runs in the World Series) was the one batter to luck into a hit off of Johnson that day. In the fourth inning, Baker came to bat and lined a foul ball towards the President’s box. Though the ball missed Taft, it careened into the adjacent box, narrowly missing Vice President James Sherman before hitting Secretary of the Senate Charles Bennett in the head. Luckily for all involved, the ball “had spent its force when it landed in the box,” leaving everyone uninjured. Later reports and references to the incident, though, incorrectly refer to Bennett as the Secretary of State (and report that he was knocked out!).
As Secretary of the Senate, the chief legislative officer in the Senate, Bennett helped to usher the Senate into the modern era. In doing so, he was one of the first to collect and publish the various procedures of the Senate into a concise guide for Senators. He also enjoyed frequent outings to Boundary Field, and then National Park (later Griffith Stadium), to watch baseball.
Though no mascot of Bennett will be around during this year’s opening day game, their story reminds us all to watch out for the foul ball!
Will the Base Runner Start for Third? by Clifford Berryman, 8/17/1906, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6010644)