Title: Good Sportsmanship
Date: October 1, 1924
Location: Washington, D.C.
Context: Address welcoming home the winning baseball team at The Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C.
As the head of an enterprise which transacts some business and maintains a considerable staff in this town, I have a double satisfaction in welcoming home the victorious Washington Baseball Team. First, you bring the laurels from one of the hardest fought contests in all the history of the national game. Second, I feel hopeful that with this happy result now assured it will be possible for the people of Washington gradually to resume interest in the ordinary concerns of life. So long as we could be satisfied with a prompt report of the score by innings, a reasonable attention to business was still possible. But when the entire population reached the point of requiring the game to be described play by play, I began to doubt whether the highest efficiency was being promoted. I contemplated action of a vigorously disciplinary character, but the out come makes it impossible. As a result we are a somewhat demoralized community but exceedingly happy over it.
It may be that at some time in the past a baseball pennant has gone to as widely popular a winner as your team is today. If so, it was in some year when I was not watching the score by innings. Tuesday morning, when I had finished reading details of the decisive battle of Boston and turned to the affairs of government, I found on top of everything else on my desk a telegram which I shall read to you. Whether or not I shall be able to act on its advice, many will agree that it presents a correct, constructive and statesmanlike program for dealing with the present emergency. I have received worse suggestions on more important affairs. It is from a true and thoughtful friend of the people, Congressman John F. Miller, of Seattle. He wires:
“Respectfully suggest it is your patriotic duty to call special session of Congress beginning Saturday, October 4th, so the members of Congress may have an opportunity to sneak out and see Walter Johnson make baseball history. Cannot speak for New York delegation, but hereby pledge all others to root for Washington, and serve without pay or traveling expenses.”
Mr. Miller has such judgment and his sense of public psychology is so accurate that I do not need to say what party he represents.
The Washington team won because it deserved to win. It had fought gamely, year after year, for a place at the front; never discouraged, always sure that better things were ahead. Now it appears to have annexed the whole country, with the enthusiastic approval of nearly all concerned. Aside from two or three groups of earnest young men who were willing to accept the championship, the whole country seems agreed that precisely the right thing has happened. That is a real compliment to the fine spirit, the clean play, the good sportsmanship that brought your victory. These have always been characteristics of the work of the Washington team. They have earned for it the affection of the “home town” constituency and the regard of baseball followers throughout the country. Clean sport crowned with victory is a most wholesome sight. I trust it will always be representative of America.
You have come home to receive the plaudits of your city, and to prepare for the greater competition of the World Series. We are all agreed, at least in theory, to the sentiment, “May the best team win.” But I want to add that your fellow townsmen of Washington do not need to be told which they regard as the best team. They hold firm convictions about it. And in that full confidence in which the President is privileged to speak when only the public is listening, I may say that I have my opinion about it. I hope the results of the World Series will show we all are right. I know it will show a continuation of clean sport.
Manager Harris, I am directed by a group of your Washington fellow citizens to present to you for the Club this loving cup. It is a symbol of deep and genuine sentiment. It is committed to you and your team mates in testimony of the feelings that all Washington has for you. With it go the heartiest congratulations on victory already won, and every wish for your success in the contest which is still ahead of you.
There is a place both present and future in America for true, clean sport. We do not rank it above business, the occupations of our lives, and we do not look with approval upon those who, not being concerned in its performance, spend all their thought, energy and time upon its observance. We recognize, however, that there is something more in life than the grinding routine of daily toil, that we can develop a better manhood and womanhood, a more attractive youth, and a wiser maturity, by rounding out our existence with a wholesome interest in sport.
To those who devote themselves to this enterprise in a professional way and by throwing their whole being into it raise it to the level of an art, the country owes a debt of gratitude. They furnish us with amusement, with an outside interest, oftentimes in the open air, that quicken the step, refreshes the mind, rejuvenates and restores us. We pitch with the pitchers, we go to bat with the batters, and make a home run with the hard hitters. The training, the energy, the intelligence which these men lavish upon their profession ought to be an inspiration for a like effort in every walk of life. They are a great band, these armored knights of the bat and ball. They are held up to a high standard of honor on the field, which they have seldom betrayed. While baseball remains our national game our national tastes will be on a higher level and our national ideals on a firmer foundation. By bringing the baseball pennant to Washington, you have made the National Capital more truly the center of worthy and honorable national aspirations.