Spurred by Ripken, Clinton throws 'real' strike He shuns carpeted area for a pitch from mound


He had to rush through a news conference, juggle his schedule and cut short his meeting with the Italian president. But the First Fan shrugged off Monday's rainout to appear at Camden Yards yesterday, where he inaugurated the Orioles season by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

As he did here in 1993, President Clinton threw a strike to Chris Hoiles, although, truth be told, he kind of lobbed it in.

In 1993, Clinton confessed that he feared throwing the ball in the dirt. Hoiles urged him to just throw it nice and easy. It's a formula that has worked ever since.

Clinton's day -- the baseball part of it, anyway -- began when he took a helicopter from the White House to Fort McHenry, where he was met by a phalanx of Baltimore politicians and baseball dignitaries, including Bud Selig, the acting commissioner, Donald Fehr, the players' union representative, and commentator Joe Garagiola.

An informal poll revealed that the Orioles are a strong favorite to win the pennant.

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, found retrieving his hat after it was blown off his head by Marine One, said he believed the Orioles would go "all the way" this season.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, sporting an Orioles jacket and a big smile, replied: "Oh, didn't you hear? We're preparing to host the World Series."

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer laughed and said the Orioles would "absolutely" win the pennant this year. "What do you think? That I was going to give you an objective answer to that question?"

Asked off the record what he thought, a certain Maryland House Democrat added that he thought the Orioles lineup was strong and that if the starting pitching was as fine as it looked on paper, there was no limit to how far Davey Johnson's club could go.

At Camden Yards, Clinton visited both clubhouses, this being an election year, and Missouri (home state of the visiting Kansas City Royals) being more up for grabs than normally Democratic Maryland.

In the Orioles clubhouse, Clinton welcomed Mike Devereaux back to Baltimore, wished starting pitcher Mike Mussina luck and lingered at the locker of Cal Ripken. Clinton's spokesman, Mike McCurry, disclosed that an impish Ripken had told Schmoke that the president wasn't a "real man" unless he threw the first pitch from the pitcher's mound instead of from the wimpy little carpet-covered area that is traditional.

Moments later, when it was time to be a man -- or a mouse -- Clinton emerged from the dugout with Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Gov. Parris N. Glendening. It must be reported that there was a smattering, maybe a little more than a smattering, of boos.

Clinton didn't hesitate: He walked to the red carpeted area, and then, with no hesitation, motioned Hoiles that he was headed to the real mound, 60 feet and 6 treacherous inches away. He got there, kicked away some red crepe paper bunting that was sticking to his foot like a piece of toilet paper, stared in for the sign and threw.

The pitch hit Hoiles' glove, and the crowd -- even some boo-birds -- registered surprised approval.

Later, gabbing in the broadcasters' booth, a clearly ebullient Clinton illustrated that Opening Day truly is about renewal, spring, possibility and all that other Ken Burns-type stuff.

Asked if he liked being president, Clinton replied: "Oh yeah. Some parts of it are a little rougher than I thought it would be, but I have no complaints. I signed up for the whole deal, and if I had to do it over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Even the bad days are good."

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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