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The Baseball Career of George H. W. Bush

Today I went to Seattle for a Mariners game. They lost (nothing new about that), but, as nothing else interesting seems to have happened on this day President-wise, I felt inspired to journal about the baseball career of George H. W. Bush.

The elder President Bush had been accepted to Yale University prior to his enlistment in the military, and took up the offer after his discharge and marriage. While at Yale, he was enrolled in an accelerated program that allowed him to graduate in two and a half years, rather than four. He was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and was elected president. He also captained the Yale baseball team, and as a left-handed first baseman, played in the first two College World Series. As the team captain, Bush met Babe Ruth before a game during his senior year.

Bush was described in a Sports Illustrated article as a "slick-fielding first baseman" for Yale 60 years ago, when college baseball's national championship was played at Hyames Field on the campus of Western Michigan. It was a small ballpark on a hillside in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a real-life "field of dreams" for college players in 1947.

"I remember going out there and thinking, 'Well, we're pretty darned lucky as an Ivy League team to be in the big time here,"' the former president recalled in an Associated Press telephone interview. "But there we were."

President Bush, added "We thought about it a lot and talked about it in the locker room. A lot of us on the team were veterans and we had come back from the war, so maybe that made it a little less apprehensive. On the other hand, it didn't deduct from our enthusiasm and our desire to win, which we did not do."

Instead, the title went to the California team. The Bears won the first game in which the first few innings were played in a steady rain. Yale led 4-2 before some strategy by Allen, a former major leaguer, backfired in the seventh inning.

"We walked the eighth hitter to get to the pitcher, and it was Jackie Jensen," Bush said. "He hit one that's still rolling out there in Kalamazoo."

That big hit tied the game, and the Bears scored twice more in the eighth before breaking it open with an 11-run ninth.

Yale rallied in the second game from a 7-2 deficit and tied it in the sixth inning, but Cal went ahead to stay the following inning, scoring the winning run in an 8-7 victory, sweeping the best of 3 series, two games to none.

Yale found its way back to Kalamazoo the next year. Southern California came out on top in three games, with the final game ending on a triple play -- with Bush on deck.

"It was a traumatic experience and letdown for Yale," said Bush, the team captain. "All of us felt that way. You learn to go with the flow and get on with your life, and that's what all of us did."

After he became president in 1989, Bush kept his baseball memories close by. Tucked in his Oval Office desk was his Yale first baseman's mitt. Former team mate Ethan Allen regarded Bush as one of the best defensive first basemen he had seen. But he was quick to point out to scouts that Bush was "all glove and no hit" -- a label Bush disputes.

"I think it was grossly unfair because I think my average was about .240 or .250," he said with a chuckle. "And I think if I were playing today in the bigs, I'd probably get about 8 million bucks a year for that."

When asked if he might have had the bat to go with the glove had he used aluminum like today's college players, Bush said: "Hey, I might have. I hadn't thought about that."


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