On January 20, 2021, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, and in the five days since, zero Major League Baseball games have been played. Thanks a lot, Biden.
Joe Biden is a known fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, the team closest geographically to his dual hometowns of Scranton, PA and Wilmington, DE. While his fandom is a bit less of a pronounced part of his public image than, say, Barack Obama’s Chicago White Sox or George W. Bush’s Texas Rangers, it seems to at least be present.
Americans tend to designate eras by who was president during a time period. We will surely view at least some things through the prism of “the Biden era” or “the Biden presidency”. That may include how we view baseball, which presumably will happen again at some point during his time in office.
Who will be the greatest player of the Biden era? It may depend on how long Joe Biden is president—given his age and relative reluctance to refer to a second term, not to mention there being another election in four years, in a plurality of universes, I would guess the answer is still Mike Trout, who has been definitively the best player in baseball for nearly a decade and who will still be near his peak over the next four years. Perhaps it will be a younger player, such as Cody Bellinger, Juan Soto, or the Juniors Fernando Tatis or Ronald Acuna. Maybe it’s Wander Franco, if Biden is president for eight years.
On Biden’s Phillies, the favorite is almost certainly Bryce Harper, the team’s projected best position player in 2021 who is still in his twenties and is under contract with Philadelphia through Biden’s first and potential second terms in office. Aaron Nola, who is only 27, is the higher projected player for 2021 alone, but he has slightly less proof of concept, pitchers are more volatile due to injury risk, and more significantly, he is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2022 season.
How about among the St. Louis Cardinals, I ask obligatorily as a fan and blogger of said team? While the Cardinals are assured three more years, and can sign on for five more years, of Paul DeJong, his performance has dipped enough in the last couple years to worry me a bit of his upside in the matter. Paul Goldschmidt is under contract, and he bounced back nicely in 2020, but he’s also 33 years old (though the poetry of the Biden era’s best Cardinal being a guy people openly questioned being too old is enjoyable). But the favorite is still Jack Flaherty—he remains the team’s highest projected player and despite the constant worrying about his happiness in St. Louis, the Cardinals still have him under team control for three more seasons.
But this is all speculation. Let’s look back on the presidencies that already happened.
Donald Trump (2017-2020)
MLB: While Mookie Betts had his moments and kept the gap respectable, the obvious answer of Mike Trout is the correct one. Trout had an MLB-best 134 home runs in the Trump era, was the sport’s greatest OBP machine (.440), and was a valuable base runner, all while playing a premium defensive position in center field. He’s the modern Mickey Mantle, but healthier. He’s really good.
His favorite team: His “favorite” team is slightly ambiguous—usually, Trump says the Yankees, but he was also an enthusiastic fan of Carlos Beltran, whose signing with the Cardinals he once praised on Twitter (there is a lot going on in that sentence that has aged interestingly), while Beltran was on the New York Mets, and his presence behind the plate of Beltran’s 2006 NLCS-ending strikeout is one of the more famous baseball photos of the century. The greatest Yankee of the era is Aaron Judge, who had a mammoth rookie season in 2017 that he has never quite replicated, but he remains one of the most feared hitters in the sport with good reason. The greatest Met of the era came on the other side of the ball in Jacob deGrom, who went from being a very good pitcher in the second Obama term to being the sport’s best pitcher under Trump.
The Cardinals: The players who had great seasons during the Trump years for the Cardinals were guys like Jack Flaherty, who started late, and Matt Carpenter, who stopped early. And thus the greatest Cardinal of the Trump years was Paul DeJong, a solid two-way shortstop whom most Cardinals fans have been clamoring to be packed in a trade for Francisco Lindor for a couple years. Admittedly not the greatest four-year stretch in franchise history!
Barack Obama (2009-2016)
MLB: It was very nearly Mike Trout, who didn’t even debut until 2011 and didn’t become a full-time MLB player until Obama was already running for re-election. Miguel Cabrera, who entered Obama’s first term as a star and won the Triple Crown in 2012, was an early favorite, but he started to fade a bit near the end. But the winner is Clayton Kershaw, who became a star in 2009 and was widely regarded as a top 1-3 pitcher in baseball from 2011 through the end of the Obama years.
His favorite team: As a Cardinals fan, I have always been enamored with Obama’s allegiance to the Chicago team that isn’t the Cubs (although I wish he were aggressively anti-Cubs, which he isn’t–this is proof to never trust politicians too much). The White Sox were fairly suspect for the Obama years, but one true star emerged—pitcher Chris Sale, who became a starter (and a very good one!) in 2012 and continued his ascent through 2016, after which he was traded the Boston Red Sox, where he continued to be terrific.
The Cardinals: While Albert Pujols finished first and second in NL MVP voting in the first two years of the Obama administration, his departure paved the way for Yadier Molina to take the title. Molina began the Obama years as a highly-regarded defensive catcher with a more questionable bat, emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate with a rather potent bat, and ended the Obama years as, well, a highly-regarded defensive catcher with a more questionable bat.
George W. Bush (2001-2008)
MLB: A cap-tip to Barry Bonds, who nearly took the title despite barely clearing 1,000 plate appearances in Bush’s entire second term. But it’s Albert Pujols, who debuted a few months into Bush’s presidency and finished fourth in MVP voting as a 21 year-old rookie, which proved to be his second-lowest MVP finish during the era (and in 2007, when he finished 9th, he led the National League in Wins Above Replacement). An absolutely astonishing model of consistency.
His favorite team: George W. Bush had the most famous baseball fandom of any American president, as he co-owned the Texas Rangers for a time in the 1990s. The Rangers of his presidency were not very good, but they were defined by a very bombastic move—the signing of Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season. Alex Rodriguez only spent three seasons in Texas, but he had the 20th best player-on-a-team run of the Bush years. His run with the Yankees ranked tenth.
The Cardinals: See “MLB”. Jim Edmonds had a good run, but there was only one Albert Pujols.
Bill Clinton (1993-2000)
MLB: 1993 marked the first season of Barry Bonds with the San Francisco Giants, and 2000 marked his final year before he became the absolute freak he would become from 2001 through 2004, but that doesn’t make his run in the Clinton years any less extraordinary. Over those eight seasons, he hit a mere 318 home runs, walked just 19.2% of the time, posted a MLB-best 172 wRC+, and was for the most part still a very good defensive outfielder. Yep, he was rather good at baseball.
His favorite team: A native of Arkansas, Clinton’s closest childhood team was the Cardinals. But his wife, from the wealthy part of the Chicagoland area, gravitated towards the Cubs. As such, Bill Clinton has professed at varying times an allegiance towards both. But as far as I’m concerned, if you’re a fan of the Cardinals and the Cubs, you’re a fan of neither.
The Cardinals: He’s slightly below the upper tier of Cardinals center fielders, and he didn’t get as much playoff action as the likes of Jim Edmonds, but Ray Lankford was a thoroughly consistent player in all elements of the game, combining speed, plate discipline, power, and defensive stability.
George H.W. Bush (1989-1992)
MLB: Unlike under Clinton, the greatest player of Bush 41’s presidency was a player from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like Clinton, that player was Barry Bonds. His numbers were slightly less freakish at the plate—“only” 111 home runs over four seasons and a 159 wRC+ that was bested by Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas, and Kevin Mitchell, but he also stole 166 bases and was still an elite defensive left fielder.
His favorite team: While Bush’s loyalties tended to bounce around a bit (he famously was a mainstay at Houston Astros games later in his life, which would put him as a Craig Biggio fan during his presidency), he grew up in New England and was a fan of the Boston Red Sox (a signature moment for both the Astros and Red Sox came during his presidency, when the Red Sox traded prospect Jeff Bagwell to Houston). And while the 1989-1992 Red Sox weren’t great, they did have a Hall of Famer in Wade Boggs and the era’s best pitcher in Roger Clemens, who won 74 games with a 2.54 ERA during the span.
The Cardinals: By the time Bush came into office, Ozzie Smith was a fully realized player—he remained the best defensive shortstop ever, but he also was an above-average hitter (though he hit a comically low six home runs over four years) and stole 139 bases. The Cardinals didn’t make the postseason under Bush, but Ozzie Smith brought joy in what should have been his career twilight, as Ozzie Smith was already 34 years old when Bush was inaugurated.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1988)
MLB: The aforementioned Wade Boggs was an interesting character—a tremendous offensive force at a great offensive position who didn’t hit a ton of home runs. He had just 61 in the Reagan years, but he had a decade-best .356 batting average and .445 on-base percentage and was a stout fielder at the hot corner for the Red Sox, very narrowly edging out Rickey Henderson.
His favorite team: Although Reagan is synonymous with California, he grew up in the Midwest and was a fan of the Chicago Cubs throughout his life. And the Reagan years included the ascent of Ryne Sandberg, the well-rounded second baseman who won an MVP award in 1984 and was the focal point of some strong teams on the north side of Chicago.
The Cardinals: He didn’t arrive in St. Louis until Reagan’s second year as president, but the aforementioned Ozzie Smith was the standard-bearer of the 1980s as well. He hit just 15 home runs in seven season and his offense took a while to take off, but these were his absolute peak defensive seasons, and arguably the peak defensive seasons for any player who has ever lived.
Jimmy Carter (1977-1980)
MLB: He made a solid run as the top player under Reagan, as well, but Mike Schmidt has the Carter years all to himself. He didn’t quite have the contact hitting skills of his contemporary third baseman, George Brett of the Royals, but he hit nearly double the home runs, drew enough walks to compete with Brett on OBP, and was a Gold Glove-winning third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.
His favorite team: The post-Hank Aaron Braves of the late-1970s were not great, but every four or five days, they at least had Phil Niekro. The knuckleballer had a losing record during the Carter years, but this was hardly his fault—he logged an MLB-best 1281 2/3 innings and had a solid 3.48 ERA.
The Cardinals: He spent so long being deemed underrated that Ted Simmons is now properly rated as one of the most productive players of his era. Overshadowed at the time by Johnny Bench, Simmons began to eclipse Bench among NL catchers in the later part of the decades, and his 139 wRC+ scores him as one of the better hitters in baseball during the Carter years regardless of position.
Gerald Ford (August 9, 1974-1976)
MLB: Richard Nixon’s mid-season resignation means I have to do a little more work here, but the excellence of Joe Morgan makes the task a little bit easier. What else can you say about a guy who was probably the most effective base-runner in the sport, was a good defender at a premium position in second base, was the best hitter in the sport by wRC+, and was a star player on the greatest team of the era, the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds?
His favorite team: The long-time Michigan representative naturally gravitated towards the Detroit Tigers, and to put it lightly, Ford didn’t have to worry about being distracted by a Tigers visit to the White House as World Series champions (which wasn’t particularly common at the time, whatever, just let me say they were bad). The top Tigers of the era were largely vestiges of the late-1960s championship team, and the team’s top pitcher remained Mickey Lolich, who didn’t even play for the Tigers in 1976 but had a 3.78 ERA in 1975 and lost 21 games the year before. Lolich was a very good pitcher who will rightly not be remembered for his mid-1970s.
The Cardinals: As much as I made fun of the Tigers, the Cardinals weren’t that much better. But Ted Simmons, once again, was the superior player to spotlight. Unlike in the late 1970s, he was conclusively worse than Johnny Bench, but he was still a solid, multi-purpose catcher for some otherwise forgettable teams.
Richard Nixon (1969-August 8, 1974)
MLB: There were countless great position players at this time, but the true standout was pitcher Ferguson Jenkins. Over the final three seasons of Nixon’s first term, Jenkins finished in the top three in Cy Young voting every year for the Chicago Cubs, and then bounced back to finish in second in 1974 with the Texas Rangers, though of course by the time that verdict was rendered, Nixon had already resigned.
His favorite team: Nixon is one of the less documented presidents in terms of favorite teams. I thought about declaring him an Angels fan, as he hailed from suburban Los Angeles, but most records I could find had him as a fan of the Washington Senators, who left D.C. after the 1971 season. But for the three seasons of his presidency where Nixon seemingly had a favorite team, their best player was Frank Howard, a gloriously bespectacled power hitter who was thrice an All-Star and finished in fourth and fifth in AL MVP voting in 1969 and 1970.
The Cardinals: The Nixon years came right after his peak, but it still included some superior Bob Gibson seasons. There was no 1.12 ERA season, but he did earn a second Cy Young Award in 1970 and had an NL-best 28 complete games in 1969.
Lyndon Johnson (1964-1968)
MLB: The perpetually underrated Ron Santo came surprisingly close, but the top player of the Johnson years was a more obvious candidate—San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays. He hit an MLB-best 181 home runs, trailed only Frank Robinson and Dick Allen by wRC+, and was maybe the best defensive center fielder who ever lived in his spare time. The reason I compared Mike Trout to Mickey Mantle instead of Willie Mays is because, as much as I adore Trout, I can’t mentally put anyone in Mays’s class.
His favorite team: By all accounts, Lyndon Johnson didn’t really care about sports. He rooted for Texas Longhorns football, but that was about it. And honestly, I respect it. Why does anyone care if a president likes sports? Shouldn’t we rather they be huge fans of, I don’t know, signing bills?
The Cardinals: Remember how under Nixon, I noted that Bob Gibson was great but he wasn’t “1.12 ERA season” great? Well, during the Johnson years, Bob Gibson was 1.12 ERA season great.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
MLB: Once again, it’s Willie Mays. Hank Aaron made a good run, and Mickey Mantle might have passed him if not for injuries, but with 127 home runs in three years, a 164 wRC+, and the absolute peak of his defensive abilities, it’s hard to argue against the body of evidence.
His favorite team: Did Kennedy run for president because he needed to fill the void of Ted Williams retiring from his beloved Boston Red Sox? Hard to say, really. Carl Yastrzemski joined the team, but he didn’t fully actualize until later in his career. Which meant the best Red Sox player is a guy I will fully admit I am just now learning existed—Bill Monbouquette. He had a brief peak with the Red Sox in the early 1960s, with his apex coming in 1963, when he won 20 games and was an All-Star for the second consecutive season.
The Cardinals: It just missed including his MVP 1964 season, but the Kennedy years were a fruitful time for Ken Boyer. The third baseman was an All-Star each season and received MVP votes in all three seasons. In 1961 and 1963, Boyer won a Gold Glove, and in his consistent way, he belted 24 home runs in each season.
Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1960)
MLB: Before injuries prematurely ended his career, Mickey Mantle was a truly astonishing talent. One of the most well-rounded players of his era, Mantle belted 284 home runs during the Eisenhower presidency and trailed only Ted Williams by wRC+. Although his later years sullied his defensive reputation, Mantle was a plus center fielder, and with triple-digit steals, he was a factor on the bases as well.
His favorite team: Dwight Eisenhower allegedly (it’s a shockingly well-covered story) played semi-pro baseball, but the native Kansan didn’t have a natural favorite team, and there isn’t much in the way of evidence of his favorite team. But prior to his time as president, Eisenhower lived in New York as the president of Columbia University, so I would imagine some level of affection of the era’s three major New York center fielders–Mantle, Willie Mays, and Duke Snider.
The Cardinals: The Eisenhower years may have aligned with the later years of the career of Stan Musial, but he was still a star. Musial was 40 by the end of the Eisenhower administration, but over the preceding eight years, he notched 1,271 hits and 202 home runs. The Cardinals didn’t make it to the playoffs, but the team remained viable in large part due to Musial’s continued excellence.
Harry S Truman (1945-1952)
MLB: The best player of the post-World War II Truman years (note: Truman became president prior to the beginning of the 1945 season) was Stan Musial, who missed a full season of his presidency, though the clear #2, Ted Williams, missed the first and last Truman season due to World War II and the Korean War, respectively. Musial was the inferior hitter to Williams (though Musial was a clear #2 in the sport as a whole) while holding edges on the bases and in the field. But longevity was his real key–Musial had nearly 1,000 more plate appearances than Williams in this time.
His favorite team: Despite his Midwestern roots, the western Missourian’s fandom was of the Washington Senators, whose games he frequently attended as president. One can hardly accuse him of bandwagoning, as the Senators, as unusual, sat in the bottom half of the American League. Third baseman Eddie Yost didn’t produce too much in Truman’s first term, but following his elected term, Yost became a dependable hitter with a solid batting eye, twice receiving MVP votes and twice leading the American League in walks.
The Cardinals: Do you really want to hear any more about Stan Musial? Maybe you do. I’m just not gonna.
Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1944)
MLB: Due to the mass exodus of players during World War II, New York Giants outfielder Mel Ott was one of the few players who played in every season of FDR’s presidency. And he barely dropped off. Ott hit 336 home runs, was a consistent on-base threat, and remains a bit underappreciated given what a superstar he was in his time.
His favorite team: The New Yorker grew up a fan of the New York Giants. So he was probably pretty excited about Mel Ott if he weren’t distracted by, well, the world during his presidency. It was a pretty…intense time.
The Cardinals: The Roosevelt years weren’t really an “era” for the Cardinals, but rather two separate but very successful runs. The top player for them was Johnny Mize, who was on the Cardinals from 1936 through 1941, where he set the franchise single-season home run record in 1940, which lasted for 58 years, and was National League MVP runner-up for two consecutive seasons.
Herbert Hoover (1929-1932)
MLB: The Hoover years is around the time that Lou Gehrig, the younger of the New York Yankees superstars, began to assert himself as the premier hitter in the lineup, but it wasn’t quite fast enough to take the crown of the era’s best player from Babe Ruth. His previous competence running and fielding had largely waned, but Ruth still managed a .355/.478/.699 AVG/OBP/SLG over four seasons and hit 182 home runs.
His favorite team: Although Hoover grew up a Cubs fan, he was fiercely a Washington Senators convert during his presidency. Despite only serving one term and having his presidency align with the Great Depression, Hoover attended more games than any other president. Despite a rough 1929 season, the Senators began to enter one of their few prosperous runs, with the top player of the group being Joe Cronin, who combined strong offense and defense at shortstop to become the greatest middle infielder of his era.
The Cardinals: The Cardinals were somewhat between dynasties at the time, but their stalwart was Frankie Frisch. He was past his absolute peak of 1927, but Frisch remained one of the sport’s all-time great contact hitters while playing slick second base defense for the Cardinals.
Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923-1928)
MLB: Would you believe me if I told you the greatest player of the Coolidge years was somebody other than Babe Ruth? Did you notice I didn’t bold his name? Well, you shouldn’t believe me. Of course it’s Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth in the Coolidge years is the greatest baseball player in history.
His favorite team: Mostly via his wife, Coolidge became an ardent supporter of the Washington Senators, including the 1924 World Series champions. And while Walter Johnson was the most famous member of that team, outfielder Goose Goslin was the best. Although he wasn’t (yet) much of a power hitter, Goslin was speedy enough to have extra base hit power and solidify the Senators’ lineup.
The Cardinals: Even though he left the team after the 1926 season, Rogers Hornsby was the best non-Ruth player in baseball for the first three-and-a-half years of the Coolidge presidency. Hornsby was a historically potent hitter (well, by a non-Ruth standard, at least) while playing superb middle infield defense, and was the National League’s greatest superstar of the mid-1920s.
Warren Harding (1921-August 2, 1923)
MLB: Babe Ruth wasn’t quite BABE RUTH yet. But, well, he was pretty much Babe Ruth. This was when he went from a good baseball player to a truly transcendent one.
His favorite team: Harding’s hometown was roughly equidistant between Cincinnati and Cleveland, and he played in an exhibition game with the Chicago Cubs, but his true baseball allegiance was towards the aforementioned Babe Ruth, whom he invited on several occasions to the White House. I guess if you can be friends with Babe Ruth, that’s pretty cool.
The Cardinals: Like Ruth, Rogers Hornsby simply owned the 1920s.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1920)
MLB: The likes of Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Eddie Collins were peaking during the Wilson years, but the greatest player of the decade was Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson. Arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history, Johnson won 190 games during the Wilson years and had a sub-2 ERA and FIP over the course of an entire decade.
His favorite team: Wilson was a fan of the New York Giants, which meant supporting George Burns, the less famous late-19th century born entertainer named George Burns, who was widely respected among his peers as one of the best outfielders of what would later be known as the Dead Ball Era.
The Cardinals: Although he didn’t debut with the Cardinals in earnest until 1916, if you’ve looked at previous presidents, you are well aware of Rogers Hornsby, who was far and away the greatest player in franchse history almost the second he first took the field in St. Louis.
William Taft (1909-1912)
MLB: Legendary Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb had a long, sustained period of excellence, but his absolute peak came during the Taft administration. He batted nearly .400 (.398) over the four-year stretch and led Major League Baseball with 285 stolen bases and even hit the third-most home runs in the sport during that stretch, despite his reputation as a Dead Ball Era slap-hitter.
His favorite team: While Taft’s girth is his most famous characteristic in the modern era, he was himself a talented baseball player in his youth and was a known fan of his hometown Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were not a great team during this era, but their top player was Mike Mitchell, an outfielder who twice led the National League in triples and was a nimble base thief.
The Cardinals: While Rogers Hornsby would eventually lap the field in terms of greatest Cardinals players, the top Cardinal prior to his arrival was first baseman Ed Konetchy. Konetchy was among the era’s most disciplined hitters and despite a relative lack of power, even for the era, he was the central figure for the Cardinals of the era.
Theodore Roosevelt (September 14, 1901-1908)
MLB: The World Series era began under Teddy Roosevelt, and the era was dominated by Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner. The era’s most well-rounded hitter while playing its most critical position in the field, Wagner remains arguably the greatest shortstop in baseball history, and the Roosevelt presidency catches him at his peak. I should also clarify that going forward, when I say “MLB”, I mean players that FanGraphs considers to have been in the “major leagues”, even though MLB did not exist prior to the Roosevelt administration.
His favorite team: Teddy Roosevelt hated baseball. And not in an LBJ, “he doesn’t get the appeal but whatever, different strokes for different folks” sort of way. He legitimately detested the sport. There was a concerted effort to convert him to the sport, but it never seemed to work.
The Cardinals: While the Taft-era Cardinals were not “good”, the decade prior was simply an abomination. The best Cardinals player of the Roosevelt years was Homer Smoot, a decent-hitting outfieler without much defensive prowess who only played in five Major League Baseball seasons.
William McKinley (1897-September 14, 1901)
MLB: Certainly the most famous player of the turn of the 19th century into the twentieth, Cy Young was also the best. A pitcher with still-legendary stamina, Young completed around three-fourths of the games he started, and he did so with pinpoint control for the Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, St. Louis Cardinals, and Boston Americans.
His favorite team: A fan of the Cincinnati Reds, McKinley’s home team was carried in large part by ace Noodles Hahn, who didn’t even debut until 1899 but immediately went 23-8, with a 2.68 ERA in 309 innings.
The Cardinals: Veteran Jesse Burkett spent three seasons in St. Louis in the pre-World Series era, and the outfielder was easily the team’s most dominant offensive force. A combination of power and contact, Burkett’s career with the then-Perfectos peaked in 1899, when he posted a .396 batting average.
Grover Cleveland (1885-1888, 1893-1896)
MLB: In time spent with the New York Giants and St. Louis Browns (the future St. Louis Cardinals, not to be confused with the American League team that began in 1902), Roger Connor was the sport’s first great first baseman, and in an era where a slick defensive first baseman was more useful than in the sport’s future power-oriented eras. A rarity for the era, Connor had four double-digit home run seasons and exhibited great plate patience.
His favorite team: The only record of Cleveland’s baseball allegiance was a fondness for the Chicago White Stockings (not to be confused with the White Sox–this team later became the Cubs), whose best player of his presidenc(y/ies) was Cap Anson, who like Roger Connor was a first baseman with era-uncharacteristic power. He was also a despicable white supremacist whose primary modern relevance is attempts to remove him from the Hall of Fame.
The Cardinals: Mostly relevant in Cleveland’s first term, Tip O’Neill had the best individual season in franchise history up until the arrival of Rogers Hornsby. In 1887, O’Neill belted 14 home runs and had an absolutely staggering .435/.490/.691, and he would contend for this title on that season alone.
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1892)
MLB: The Chicago White Stockings powerhouse was still in high gear during the Harrison years, and while the aformentioned Anson was still a star, the team’s greatest player was Bill Hutchison. A starting pitcher who won 138 games, he threw an absolutely unfathomable 2,104 innings over four years.
His favorite team: Harrison did attend baseball games, and while information on his favorite team is somewhat murky, he was from metropolitan Cincinnati, so I’ll say he probably had fondness for the Cincinnati Red Stockings/Reds. And that likely meant some fondness for Bid McPhee, the second baseman who was a solid hitter but was mostly regarded for his glove. And by his glove, I mean his fielding, as he did not play with a fielding glove. Yep, we’re in that era of baseball.
The Cardinals: In an era in which the most important thing a team could have was a top-notch workhorse of a starting pitcher, Jack Stivetts fit the bill for the then-Browns. In his first three career seasons (by 1892, he was a Boston Beaneater), Stivetts was a relatively high-strikeout pitcher for the nineteenth century and averaged over 350 innings per season.
Chester A. Arthur (September 19, 1881-1884)
MLB: The Buffalo Bisons may not resonate with you in 2021, but their Hall of Fame ace Pud Galvin was arguably the best player in history whose entire career was played in the 19th century. Also, he was born like five minutes away from where I live, which is cool.
His favorite team: Records of this are spotty at best, and remain spotty at best the further you go back in history. So I’m going to retire this category.
The Cardinals: The St. Louis Brown Stockings were formed a few months into the Arthur presidency, which means this category is being retired as well. But the best player for their first three seasons was Jumbo McGinnis, a starting pitcher whose MLB career was brief but largely condensed into the Arthur presidency. He consistently posted ERAs in the twos and, per law of 1880s baseball, started over a third of the games and didn’t strike anybody out by modern standards.
James Garfield (1881-September 19, 1881)
MLB: I don’t have much to say about Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs. He was a two-way player (though mostly a pitcher) who threw 462 1/3 innings and was evidently the best baseball player around in 1881.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1880)
MLB: By a fair margin, the greatest player of the Hayes administration was pitcher Tommy Bond of the Boston Red Caps. Averaging over 500 innings per season (I assume 1870s-era pitchers looked with derision on the mere 300+ inning pitchers of the next generation with all of the derision of today’s most jaded Boomers), Bond avoided walks and had a 2.19 ERA and 2.38 FIP over the course of these four seasons.
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1876)
MLB: Grant was the first president to preside over a world in which professional baseball existed, and thus this is as far back as I will be going (maybe Abraham Lincoln was a big Jim Creighton fan, though I suspect he had other things on his mind). And the sport’s finest player was Al Spalding, a pitcher who won 252(!!!) games in six seasons for the Boston Red Stockings and Chicago White Stockings. He is best remembered today as the founder of his eponymous sporting goods company.