That Time Richard Nixon Showed Up to a Phillies Game at the Vet

Presidents love baseball. Richard Nixon was no exception — and he was at least mildly fond of the Phillies.

Presidents love baseball. Barack Obama likes the White Sox, George W. Bush owned the Rangers, his dad regularly attends Astros games and Ronald Reagan played Grover Cleveland Alexander. Even Bill Clinton has attended a few baseball games! It’s almost as if these people are trying to associate themselves with mom and apple pie so they’ll be elected president!

Presidents and baseball go even farther back, and earlier this week the Richard Nixon Foundation posted a long list of Richard Nixon’s ties to baseball, including the above photo of Nixon with the Phillies manager and coaching staff at Veterans Stadium!

Though the Foundation dates it to 1989, I actually think it must be this July 27, 1988 game between the Mets and the Phillies. The Mets won, 7-5, in a game that ended at 2:13 a.m. No word if Nixon was such a baseball fan he stayed until the end.

The oddest thing is that the Phillies signed the photo for Nixon. What was he going to do, put it on his wall? Maybe Nixon really was incredibly impressed with the work Lee Elia did with the Phillies.

Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also visited the Vet, for Army-Navy games. So why Nixon’s visit? Best guess: It stems from Nixon’s friendship with then-Phillies manager Lee Elia, as detailed in this 1987 Paul Hagen story in the Daily News.

Former President Richard Nixon was at Shea Stadium last week to watch the Mets and Phillies play and, although he and Elia didn’t meet, Nixon sent Elia a copy of his book, Leaders.

There was a short note congratulating the manager on turning the Phillies around and the flyleaf was inscribed: “To Lee Elia, with appreciation for his leadership of the Phillies, Richard Nixon.”

Lee Elia went 51-50 as Phillies manager in 1987 after taking over for John Felske (29-32). This is a turnaround worthy of a book from Richard Nixon.

Another visitor to the Vet in the late 1980s, one perhaps more important than even Nixon, was a certain cartoon spokes-dog:

A lot of people are impressed by major league baseball players. And what are major league baseball players impressed by? One thing, it would seem, is Spuds MacKenzie, the mutt who is being promoted by Anheuser Busch as “The Original Party Animal.”

Spuds was part of the promotion at the Vet last night and several Phillies lined up to have their picture taken with the dog three hours before gametime.

If any photos of the Phillies with Spuds surface — he also showed up at a Phillies-Cardinals tilt in St. Louis later that season — I’ll be sure to update you.