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All-Star Party Includes President

President Obama waves to the crowd as he jogs off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols before the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
President Obama waves to the crowd as he jogs off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols before the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (By Haraz N. Ghanbari -- Associated Press)

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By Thomas Boswell
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ST. LOUIS

In the last 15 years, the all-star game has been expanded, promoted, improved, almost perfected, to the point that cities now line up, a dozen deep, to host an event that, a generation ago, had to cajole towns to accept such a circus within their city limits.

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No wonder that President Obama became the first sitting chief executive in more than a generation, since 1976, to throw out a first ball at an all-star game here on Tuesday night. For that matter, he was the first president even to attend such a game in 17 years. But he was merely in tune with the sports zeitgeist as a game that once seemed square, parochial and easily dismissed has become a three-day civic extravaganza to see which town can throw the finest party.

In a sense, five presidents were here, since all four living ex-presidents read eloquent messages in favor of public service that were shown on the scoreboard before the game.

For years, sitting presidents joked that they should never take the mound without a sympathetic figure in tow. President George H.W. Bush said he always preferred to have a small, adorable child next to him -- tough to boo.

However, Obama not only came out alone but also became the first pitching president to dress like a fan in the bleachers. Either that or Air Force One lost his luggage. His blue jeans, sneakers and White Sox team jacket (celebrating his favorite team) brought cheers, snickers of surprise and some boos, presumably good-natured, in a NL town.

"It was so cool, it was like a blur," Phillies outfielder Raúl Ibáñez said. "I don't even remember what I said. I hope it was, 'Nice to meet you, Mr. President.' "

The president's look was universally appreciated. "It makes sense. It's a baseball game," said Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

Added Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman, "You can't be the leader of the free world and not be bold."

After trotting to the top of the mound, the president appeared to get the universal brief look of anxiety shared by ceremonial throwers as they realize how far the full 60 feet 6 inches are when millions are watching. With quick footwork by Cardinals star Albert Pujols the dreaded bouncing throw was avoided and a sinker over the plate was achieved.

Later, on TV, Obama commented on baseball subjects, including the game's current parity where almost every team has a chance to win.

"There's a lot of parity, which I think is terrific, because it means everybody around the country has a little bit of hope for the team. . . . I may be the exception [with] the Nationals."


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