FDR congratulates the Big Train upon the occasion of a dinner in his honor1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signed Letter to Walter Johnson. Walter Johnson came to know a number of U.S. Presidents in his several decades in Washington. In 1910, at the tender age of twenty-two, Johnson was the recipient of the first Presidential Opening Day toss, a ball with which he, as the starting pitcher, was intended to begin the game. Instead, realizing the significance of the occasion, Johnson put that ball aside and used another for the game itself, which he won in a three to nothing one-hitter over the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Athletics. The next day an acquaintance with access to the White House took the ball to the President, who inscribed the following:
"To Walter Johnson, with the hope that he may continue to be as formidable as in yesterday's game. Wm. H. Taft."
Johnson ended his career with similar Opening Day balls signed by Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the five historic baseballs residing now as one of the prized collections of the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
Of all the Presidents with whom Walter Johnson became acquainted, however, none was a bigger baseball fan than the nation's thirty-second, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As Woodrow Wilson's Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920, Roosevelt was a regular at Griffith Stadium. He helped raise the flag during Opening Day ceremonies in 1917, then led the Washington Senators in a military marching formation with bats over their shoulders instead of rifles in commemoration of the United States entrance into World War I two weeks earlier. As President, FDR threw out the opening pitch eight of his first nine years, at the World Series in 1933, and at the 1937 All-Star Game.
Johnson and Babe Ruth, each covering the 1933 World Series for a newspaper syndicate, were personally received by the President at the White House. And on November 5, 1937, Roosevelt sent this letter to the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on the occasion of a banquet celebration in honor of Johnson's 50th birthday:
It is a pleasure to join with other fans who are planning a dinner in honor of one who has done so much to advance the national sport. As one of those fans who has followed your career with great admiration and interest, and as one farmer to another, I send you heartiest greetings.
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] Franklin D. Roosevelt"
The original White House envelope, addressed to "Mr. Walter Johnson, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C." is included. Official White House stationery exhibits original mailing folds but no other faults. Autograph is 9/10. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication. Letter of provenance from Walter Johnson's daughter & grandson.
1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signed Letter to Walter Johnson.
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