Wednesday, November 6, 2019


The last time the baseball team from Washington won the World Series, Calvin Coolidge was in the White House.

That would be the American League’s Washington Senators, who — 95 years ago in 1924 — defeated the New York Giants of the National League four games to three.

On Oct. 4, 1924, “Silent Cal” Coolidge became the first president to attend a World Series opener. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Griffith Stadium. Coolidge invited the champion Senators to the White House — but not until 11 months later, shortly before the 1925 Series, in which the defending champions lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates four games to three.

On Monday, 9-1/2 decades later, the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals were feted for their victory over the Houston Astros at a White House now helmed by a president who no one would ever describe as “silent.” Indeed, some of the more controversial things Mr. Trump has said — and done — prompted Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle to announce late last week that he wouldn’t be joining his teammates for their reception at the White House.

“There’s a lot of things, policies that I disagree with, but it has more to do with the divisive rhetoric and widening the divide in this country,” Mr. Doolittle said of his decision to shun the event, which became a regular tradition only much more recently, in the 1980s during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Since then, numerous championship athletes have snubbed White House invitations from presidents of both parties for a variety of reasons, ideological and otherwise.)

“At the end of the day, as much as I wanted to be there with my teammates and share that experience with my teammates, I can’t do it,” the liberal Mr. Doolittle told The Washington Post.

Neither, apparently, could six others from the 25-man World Series roster — third baseman Anthony Rendon, outfielders Michael Taylor and Victor Robles, and pitchers Joe Ross, Wander Suero and Javy Guerra. (Mr. Guerra said he didn’t attend because he’s planning his wedding this weekend, and it’s possible some of the others also had nonpolitical reasons for not going.)

For those with a strong disdain for Mr. Trump, it was certainly their prerogative not to go, and it was perhaps just as well they didn’t. It would have been awkward and cast a pall on the event for the others, including manager Davy Martinez, General Manager Mike Rizzo and team owner Mark Lerner, who surely enjoyed the reception on the White House’s South Portico and South Lawn before a crowd of more than 5,000 under sunny autumn skies.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki donned one of Mr. Trump’s signature red Make America Great Again caps and was thanked with a bear hug by the president. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman presented him with a customized Nationals jersey bearing the name Trump and number 45. Mr. Zimmerman, the only player remaining from the team’s inaugural season in Washington in 2005, thanked the president for inviting them, calling it an “unbelievable honor.” He said the team would “like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in in the world.” Sadly but predictably, many on the intolerant left are now vilifying Messrs. Suzuki and Zimmerman for their embrace of Mr. Trump.

Those who boycotted over political disagreements with Mr. Trump should understand that the invitation to the White House is a recognition of their achievements, and that their presence doesn’t imply an endorsement of the policies of the president. The chief executive is honoring them, not the other way around. Even if one doesn’t support the occupant of the Oval Office, one should respect of the office of the presidency and the White House. An invitation from a president — any president — is a rare privilege accorded to precious few.

For what it’s worth, we would say the same thing about, for example, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who refused to go the White House during the presidency of Barack Obama after his team won the NHL’s Stanley Cup in 2011, or the Green Bay Packers’ Mark Chmura, who declined to meet with Bill Clinton after his NFL team’s 1996 Super Bowl win. Unless the Nationals win the World Series again, albeit during the tenure of a future president more to their liking, Mr. Doolittle and his cohorts likely will not get another opportunity to visit the White House. It’s more their loss than Mr. Trump’s.

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