Bush never lost a love for base­ball

Late ex-pres­i­dent had ties to Astros, Rangers

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - USA TODAY SPORTS - Steve Hen­son

Af­ter he be­came pres­i­dent of the USA in 1989, Ge­orge H.W. Bush kept a prized pos­ses­sion in his Oval Of­fice desk drawer: the first base­man’s mitt he wore play­ing for the Yale var­sity more than 40 years be­fore.

Pres­i­dent Bush, who died Fri­day at 94, kept the mitt oiled and pli­ant. He was a sports­man through and through who en­joyed out­door pur­suits from golf to fish­ing to ten­nis to sky div­ing even into his 90s. But base­ball was per­haps his fa­vorite pas­time, and as long as that mitt was ready for a catch, he still felt like a ballplayer.

Af­ter he left pub­lic of­fice, Bush and his wife, Barbara, were fix­tures at Astros games in Hous­ton. She would keep a score book; he would sign au­to­graphs for fans and greet play­ers and coaches with hand­shakes and words of en­cour­age­ment. They were also con­nected to the Rangers when their old­est son, Ge­orge W. Bush, was man­ag­ing gen­eral part­ner of the team from 1989 to 1994.

The fa­ther and son were part of the pregame fes­tiv­i­ties be­fore Game 5 of the 2017 World Se­ries in Hous­ton when the Astros played the Dodgers. Hous­ton would win that game 13-12 and then cap­ture its first World Se­ries ti­tle in Game 6 in Los An­ge­les.

Oc­ca­sion­ally Bush would re­count his mem­o­ries of Yale ad­vanc­ing to the first two NCAA-sanc­tioned na­tional base­ball cham­pi­onships in 1947 and 1948, held at West­ern Michi­gan in Kala­ma­zoo. Bush was the cap­tain and first base­man, an ex­pert fielder and av­er­age hit­ter.

“A lot of us on the team were (World War II) vet­er­ans and we had come back from the war, so maybe that made it a lit­tle less ap­pre­hen­sive,” Bush told Sports Il­lus­trated in 2007. “On the other hand, it didn’t deduct from our en­thu­si­asm and our de­sire to win, which we did not do.”

Yale ad­vanced to the fi­nal both years but lost to Cal­i­for­nia in 1947 and to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 1948. The ex­pe­ri­ence was en­rich­ing for Bush, who as Yale cap­tain met Babe Ruth near the end of the Hall of Famer’s life and whose coach was for­mer ma­jor lea­guer Ethan Allen.

“I know in pol­i­tics, it helps to be com­pet­i­tive and it helps to learn about sports­man­ship and prac­tice sports­man­ship,” Bush said. “So I found that my mod­est base­ball ca­reer at Yale was ex­traor­di­nar­ily help­ful to me when I got into pol­i­tics or got out into life in busi­ness.”

Bush never lost the base­ball bug. In the sum­mer of 1984 at 60 he played in an old-timers game with for­mer ma­jor league stars when he was vice pres­i­dent to Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan. Bush hit a sin­gle into left-cen­ter field off of Milt Pap­pas, but his more im­pres­sive feat came on de­fense.

Hall of Famer Or­lando Cepeda hit a hard ground ball down the first-base line. Bush dived to his left, knocked the ball down, picked it up and threw out Cepeda. The old mitt had made the play, and not so many years later as pres­i­dent, Ge­orge H.W. Bush could open his desk drawer and re­live the mo­ment.


Yale cap­tain and first base­man Ge­orge H.W. Bush met Babe Ruth dur­ing the 1948 NCAA base­ball cham­pi­onships.


Ge­orge H.W. Bush was the first base­man and cap­tain of the Yale base­ball team in 1947 and 1948. Yale ad­vanced to the na­tional cham­pi­onship game both years.

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