Free agency has begun, but there’s been little buzz coming from Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have yet to begin interviewing candidates to replace the reassigned Matt Klentak as general manager, and they are not expected to be big spenders this winter.
Meanwhile, in Queens, the Mets have a new billionaire owner who says he didn’t buy the team to make money and wants to win a title within five years. The Phillies-Mets rivalry could get interesting this offseason.
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Joe Biden wore a Phillies hat last summer on late-night TV, and he has watched games from the first row at Citizens Bank Park, visited the team’s clubhouse after wins, and had Jimmy Rollins introduce him at a campaign rally.
Biden, who was born in Scranton and raised in Delaware, is a Phillies fan, and his wife, Jill, is a diehard from Montgomery County.
“My wife is an absolute fanatical Phillies fan,” Biden said in 2012 while standing alongside Rollins at a news conference in Washington. “Every night, when I go to bed, if Jill is awake, I lean in to kiss her good night, and as I turn my head, I look right into the bobblehead of Jimmy Rollins. ... That’s more than a man should have to take. Jimmy gave her his warm-up jacket, and she’s always around the house with the jacket on.”
Biden might be the first Phillies fan in the Oval Office. Pennsylvania native and 15th president James Buchanan died 15 years before the team was born. But Biden is not the first president with deep ties to Philadelphia’s baseball scene.
Herbert Hoover became such a regular at Philadelphia A’s games that Connie Mack adopted the president in the summer of 1930 as the team’s mascot.
Hoover threw out the first pitch before the opening game of the team’s 1929 season (a 13-4 win in Washington) and was at Shibe Park six months later to throw out the first pitch before the A’s World Series clincher. Hoover and his wife, Lou, were at Griffith Stadium in Washington the following July just as the A’s were starting to run away with the pennant.
“Excuse us, please, we have adopted President Hoover as our mascot. When he took his seat in the back of the Washington bench, we could not help feeling that he was a harbinger of good luck, and so it turned out,” Mack wrote in his Inquirer column after the A’s won in D.C. “If we are destined to win a second pennant this season, I hope the President of the United States will find it convenient to see us play one of the games in Philadelphia and continue his role as the Athletics’ most distinguished mascot.”
Like Mack hoped, Hoover returned to Philadelphia in October for the first game of the 1930 World Series. The A’s won with their mascot watching and captured their second straight title in six games. The A’s, The Inquirer’s John M. McCullough wrote, “can be pardoned if they regard the President of the United States as their mascot.”
But Hoover’s honeymoon with Philadelphia eventually wore out. He returned to Shibe Park in October 1931, when the A’s reached their third straight World Series, and was booed as he took his seat. The fans, two years before the end of prohibition, chanted “We want beer!”
“I’m here to tell you that it made me unusually sore,” Hoover said in 1940. “And the main reason for that was because I was the only man in the grandstand who had obeyed the law and been thirsty for 15 years.”
The crowd booed Hoover’s first pitch, which was wild and had to be caught by a leaping umpire, and booed again when instructed after the game to stay seated while Hoover left the ballpark. The A’s lost that game, dropped the World Series, and did not win another pennant until they moved to Oakland.
Biden has already been invited to throw out the first pitch in Washington on opening day. The Phillies will likely try to get him to do the same sometime at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies remain in litigation over the rights of the Phillie Phanatic, so perhaps they are in the market for a new mascot. They just have to hope it doesn’t end the way it did for Hoover.
J.T. Realmuto declined his one-year qualifying offer from the Phillies as he seeks to become the highest-paid catcher in baseball history. Keep an eye on the Mets.
It’s not all about free agency as Scott Lauber outlines five players the Phillies could target to acquire via trades this winter.
Alec Bohm finished second for the National League’s Rookie of the Year, and Lauber explains why he voted for Milwaukee’s Devin Williams.
Tonight: The American League and National League MVP awards are announced, 6 p.m.
Monday: The 2021 Hall of Fame ballot will be announced.
Dec. 7: Roberto Clemente Award winner announced, 2 p.m.
Dec. 8: Hank Aaron Award winner announced, 2 p.m.
Dec. 9: All-MLB Team announced, 7 p.m.
If Joe Biden visits Citizens Bank Park during his presidency, it will be the first time a sitting president attended a Phillies home game since 1915. Woodrow Wilson became the first president to watch a World Series game when he threw out the first pitch before the Phillies lost Game 2 against Boston.
Gerald Ford threw out two first pitches, one for the American League and one for the National League, before the 1976 All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium, and Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama watched the Phillies play on the road. Clinton visited the Phillies clubhouse in 1997 in Baltimore and was joined by a large crew of Secret Service members and reporters.
“You’ll have to forgive me, Mr. President, if I seem a little nervous,” Curt Schilling said. “I’m not used to having my uniform on in front of this many people.”
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: What happens if JT signs with another team? — Dave D. via email