President Bush - Dream
PRESIDENT BUSH FULFILLS A DREAM
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - For George W. Bush, being at the Little League Baseball World Series was a dream come true.
"Years ago, when I was playing on those dusty Little League fields in West Texas, I never dreamt I'd be President of the United States," President Bush said in his opening remarks on Aug. 26 before the Little League Baseball World Series championship game. "And I sure never dreamt I'd be admitted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. ... One of the things I did dream about though, was making it to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Series."
President Bush is the first sitting president to visit the International Headquarters of Little League Baseball. He is also the first Little League graduate to be elected President, having played for the Central Little League of Midland, Texas, in the 1950s.
During his visit, President Bush was enshrined into the Peter J. McGovern Little League Baseball Museum Hall of Excellence. He threw the ceremonial first pitch before the championship game in which Tokyo Kitasuna Little League of Tokyo, Japan, came from behind to defeat Apopka National Little League of Apopka, Fla., 2-1.
"Enshrinement in the Hall of Excellence signifies that a former Little Leaguer has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their chosen profession and exemplifies the values learned as children in Little League Baseball," Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball, said. "President Bush obviously fits that description."
President Bush was accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, as well as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. During his remarks to a crowd of more than 40,000 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, President Bush explained the importance of Little League to the children of the world.
"I equate Little League Baseball with good families," President Bush said. "You're not only teaching the kids how to throw and hit, you're teach them incredibly important values: the values of good clean competition; the values of teamwork; the values of working with somebody to win for something greater than yourself."
Last year, Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Costner, NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, and renowned transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Stratta were enshrined. A complete list of enshrinees is at the end of this story.
Defense was the specialty of George W. Bush when he played Little League, and he has cited Little League as providing his fondest childhood memory. Frank Ittner, who was President Bush's coach on the Cubs at Midland Central Little League from 1955 until 1958, spoke about young George W. Bush in a recent interview with Little League Baseball: "He was a good catcher, and you could always rely on him to be there for every game and every practice. He was very dependable."
After attending Yale University and Harvard Business School, George W. Bush served as an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard, then moved into the energy business from 1975 until 1986. After working on his father's successful 1988 presidential campaign, he led a group that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989. He was elected the 46th Governor of Texas in 1994 and was re-elected in 1998. In 2000, he became the first Little League graduate to be elected President of the United States.
President Bush's "Tee Ball on the South Lawn" program was launched in May 2001, giving Little Leaguers a chance to play ball on the grounds of the White House. Six teams of Tee Ball players received the thrill of a lifetime when they got the chance to play baseball on the South Lawn.
Although President Bush only dreamed of making it to Williamsport someday as a player, others knew the values taught in Little League could help a Little Leaguer aspire to even higher things. Take, for instance, entertainment giant Walt Disney's prediction, in the spring of 1955, that a future president was among the Little Leaguers playing then.
"Little League is valuable because the half million boys under 13 years of age who are benefiting from it may well hold the future of our country in their hands one day," Mr. Disney wrote in a story for the 1955 Little League Baseball World Series Souvenir Program.
About the same time Mr. Disney was writing that article, George H.W. Bush wrote this in a letter to his father-in-law: "(George) aggravates ... me at times. I am sure that I do the same to him. But then at times I am so proud of him I could die. He is out for Little League, so eager. He tries so very hard. He has good fast hands and even seems to be able to hit a little."
Dreaming about being a ball player is nothing new for children, or Presidents. In an interview, President Dwight D. Eisenhower explained.
"When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing," President Eisenhower, who signed a proclamation on Little League's 25th anniversary in 1959 designating the second week in June as National Little League Week, said. "I told him I wanted to be a real Major League Baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he'd like to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish."
Little League has had a few close brushes with the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government. Two men who eventually became president also have traveled to Williamsport for Little League functions.
The first, Lyndon Johnson, visited in the fall of 1960 to present an U.S. flag to Little League President Peter J. McGovern, shortly after the dedication of the new Headquarters Building. Sen. Johnson was John F. Kennedy's running mate and only a few weeks away from election. The flag was displayed for the first time on Monday, November 25, 1963, the first full day of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, following President Kennedy's assassination.
The second, George H.W. Bush, also was a candidate for the vice presidency when he visited International Headquarters for the World Series in 1980. Vice President Bush, who coached his sons in Little League in Texas, followed Ronald Reagan into the White House, as the 41st President of the United States.
Dan Quayle, who visited the Little League Baseball World Series in 1992 to accept enshrinement into the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum Hall of Excellence, is the only sitting vice president to visit Little League in Williamsport.
President Eisenhower was expected by many to attend the dedication of the Headquarters Building during the 1960 Little League World Series. After all, his grandson, David, played second base at the time in the Moose Little League of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Twelve-year-old David even declined an opportunity to travel with his grandfather to the Soviet Union so he could continue playing Little League.
As it turned out, the visit was put off indefinitely by the "U-2 incident," in which American CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers' reconnaissance plane was shot down by the Soviets.
Over the years, Little League Baseball World Series teams have been invited to the White House many times. In the spring of 1999, President Bill Clinton invited the 1998 Little League World Series champs, Toms River (New Jersey) East American Little League team to visit. However, President Clinton had to attend the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein, so Vice President Al Gore honored the team in an East Room ceremony instead.
Here is a list of all enshrinees of the Hall of Excellence of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, with year of enshrinement in parentheses.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR (1992), member of the NBA Hall of Fame, played Little League Baseball in the Inwood Little League in New York City.
DAVE BARRY (1998), Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist/author, played in the Armonk (N.Y.) Little League.
DON BEAVER (1999), North Carolina businessman and owner of several sports franchises, played in the 1952 Little League World Series for Mooresville, N.C.
BILL BRADLEY (1989), of New Jersey, former Senator, Rhodes Scholar and member of the NBA's Hall of Fame, was a Little Leaguer in Crystal City, Mo.
GEORGE W. BUSH (2001), President of the United States, former Governor of Texas, former majority owner of the Texas Rangers, former fighter pilot, played in the Central Little League of Midland, Texas.
LEONARD S. COLEMAN (1996), President of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, played Little League in Montclair, N.J.
KEVIN COSTNER (2000), a graduate of Saticoy Little League in Ventura, Calif., went on to receive two Academy Awards, and is one of the most highly respected figures in the motion picture industry.
TONY DUNGY (1998), head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one of the most respected gentlemen in pro football, played in the Southeast Little League of Jackson, Minn.
DR. VINCENT FORTANASCE (1994) Board Certified Psychiatrist and Neurologist as well as clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, is a graduate of the Elmont Little League of Queens, N.Y.
BILLY HUNTER (2000), a player on the Delaware Township (N.J.) Little League team that advanced to the 1955 Little League Baseball World Series, went on to star in football at Syracuse University, the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins. He is executive director of the NBA Players Association.
HALE IRWIN (1993), scholar/athlete at the University of Colorado, one of the most successful members of the PGA; graduate of the Baxter Springs, Kan., Little League.
DALE MURPHY (1995), a graduate of the Tulatin Little League, Portland, Ore., is one of the finest, most-respected Major League players of the last half of the 20th century.
DR. STORY MUSGRAVE (1994), a NASA astronaut who has flown more than 17,000 hours, is a Boston area Little League graduate.
DAN O'BRIEN (1997), an Olympic decathlon gold-medalist, former world-record holder and champion of adoption-related causes, played Little League in South Suburban Little League in Klamath Fall, Ore.
JIM PALMER (1994), three-time Cy Young Award winning Major League pitcher, Baseball Hall of Famer, analyst for ABC Sports, is a graduate of the Beverly Hills, Calif., Little League.
MICHAEL PLADUS (1999), National Principal of the Year (Interboro High School, Prospect Park, Pa., 1999), graduated from the Shenandoah North (Pa.) Little League.
DAN QUAYLE (1990), former U.S. Senator and Vice President of the United States, played baseball in the Hoosier Little League of Huntington, Ind., during the mid-1950s.
CAL RIPKEN, JR. (1996), baseball's all-time ironman, played Little League Baseball at West Asheville (N.C.) Little League.
NOLAN RYAN (1991), Major League Baseball's all-time strike out record holder and Baseball Hall of Famer is a graduate of the Alvin Little League in Alvin, Texas.
MIKE SCHMIDT (1991), Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman, is a graduate of North Riverdale Little League in Dayton, Ohio.
TOM SEAVER (1988), Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, is a graduate of the Spartan Little League of Fresno, Calif.
TOM SELLECK (1991), accomplished actor and entertainer, played in the Sherman Oaks Little League in California.
BRIAN SIPE (1999), former quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, played in the Northern Little League, El Cajon, Calif., and in the 1961 Little League World Series.
DR. ROBERT SLOAN (1996), President of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, played at Western Little League in Abilene, Texas.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1997), award-winning singer/songwriter and social activist, played Little League in Freehold, N.J.
DR. ROBERT STRATTA (2000), who pitched a no-hitter in the 1967 Little League Baseball World Series for North Roseland Little League of Chicago, is professor of surgery at the University of Tennessee - Memphis.
GEORGE WILL (1992), journalist, political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, played Little League in Champaign, Ill.