The (baseball) power of the Oval Office

As the Red Sox continue to struggle in 2012, it seems likely that fans in New England will be happy to see Barack Obama’s first term as President come to an end. This has nothing to do with politics—after all, he carried every state in the region, generally by large margins. Instead it is because Obama’s Presidency has been a tough one for the Red Sox. Despite a payroll consistently among baseball’s highest, they have failed to win a single playoff game and are at risk of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Thinking about this—and the possibility of New England voters’ loyalty to the Red Sox leading to Red States in an otherwise Blue part of the country—got me wondering which franchise has done best under each President. We’ll investigate that this week, starting with Theodore Roosevelt who was President at the time of the first World Series.

Theodore Roosevelt (Seasons Covered: 1903-1908)

For sake of simplicity, I’m not counting any season played before the American League/National League World Series began in 1903. Appropriately for the namesake of the Teddy Bear, the clear franchise of his Presidency was the Chicago Cubs. In those six seasons, the Cubs won three pennants—all in a row 1906 to 1908—and two titles. Also included in there are the 1906 Cubs, still the holder of the highest winning percentage by any team.

William Howard Taft (Seasons Covered: 1909-1912)

The first President, famously, to throw out a first pitch, Taft’s Presidency belongs to the Philadelphia Athletics. In the Taft years, Connie Mack never won fewer than 90 games and won back-to-back World Series in 1911 and 1912.

Woodrow Wilson (Seasons Covered: 1913-1920)

Woodrow Wilson is the first President to ever throw out an Opening Day pitch outside of Washington DC, doing the honor at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl in 1915. Nonetheless, by the time Wilson went to Philly, the American League “Mackmen,” had been dismantled by their namesake and would lose 226 games the next two seasons. To the north was baseball’s new seat of power as the Boston Red Sox won three titles during Wilson’s tenure, making them an easy choice for this pick.

Warren Harding (Seasons Covered: 1921-1923)

Harding died in August of 1923, but having served as President throughout the majority of the season, it is credited to his ledger. The World Series never left New York during Harding’s years, as the Giants and Yankees won all six available pennants those years. The Giants took the World Series in ’21 and ’22, and therefore earn the spot as Harding’s team.

Teddy may be finishing last in this race, but he is the only President on this list (US Presswire)

Calvin Coolidge (Seasons Covered: 1924-1928)

For the first time—but not the last—we have a President whose most dominant franchise was the New York Yankees. The Yankees failed to make the postseason until 1926, but appeared in the World Series for the next three years and won both the 1927 and 1928 World Series in sweeps. Combined with the awesome legacy of Murders Row, it makes the Yankees an easy choice.

Herbert Hoover (Seasons Covered: 1929-1932)

As the man in the White House watched the eponymous “Hooverville” appear seemingly everywhere, he could at least take comfort in knowing that life was not all bad for Philadelphia A’s fans. Returning to their past glory after many years in the wilderness, the A’s won two titles and another pennant in the Hoover years to earn their place here.

Franklin Roosevelt (Season Covered: 1933-1944)

Ah, now this is my kind of President, the sort who covers a great whacking period of time. It might seem hard to figure the team when one has to consider 12 seasons, but if I’m being honest, it was not that tough. It is true that the St. Louis Cardinals won three World Series during the FDR years, and featured in another one besides. Ultimately though, there can be no topping the Yankees who won the title in six of the 12 seasons with Roosevelt in the White House.

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Harry S. Truman (Seasons Covered: 1945-1952)

I put the “S” in there to report my single favorite Truman fact, namely, that said letter stands simply for “S.” I just love that. As Roosevelt did in April of 1945, Truman gets that season. In any case, it doesn’t really matter since the Yankees’ dominance continues, with the franchise winning five World Series during the years of “Give ‘em Hell Harry.”

Dwight Eisenhower (Seasons Covered: 1953-1960)

For the bulk of the 1950’s, America Liked Ike and the Yankees liked winning. This is probably the narrowest any franchise has to a claim on a Presidency to this point. The Yankees won “only” three World Series—plus three additional American League championships—during this period, which is not much ahead of the Dodgers who won two titles, and two National League championships, across the same years. Nonetheless, not much ahead is still ahead, so the Yankees win again.

John Kennedy (Seasons Covered: 1960-1963)

There’s a lot of ways to describe how dominant the Yankees were in the middle part of the last century, but here’s another: they were the franchise that played best for every President from Calvin Coolidge to John Kennedy, save Herbert Hoover. (Which is only more proof of what a terrible President Herbert Hoover was, at least in this Yankee fan’s opinion.) The Yankees reign over Camelot, thanks to two titles and a clean sweep of American League World Series appearances.

Lyndon Johnson (Seasons Covered: 1964-1968)

Here’s an aspect of LBJ’s time in the White House—maybe the only aspect of LBJ’s time there—which won’t be covered by Robert Caro by the time his voluminous The Years of Lyndon Johnson is complete. The St. Louis Cardinals finally get their moment in the sun, winning two titles and a pennant during the Texan’s time in Washington.

President Obama may be a White Sox fan, but for now the Yankees are the team of his administration(US Presswire)

Richard Nixon (Seasons Covered: 1969-1974)

Like Harding, Nixon was President into August of his final year as Commander in Chief, so he gets credit for that season. As it turns out, ’74 is a crucial year, because the Oakland A’s victory in the World Series that year is enough to push them into the place of honor, just ahead of the Orioles who won three pennants, albeit with just one title, in the same years.

Gerald Ford (Seasons Covered: 1975-1976)

In the two Ford years, the Cincinnati Reds won both World Series, averaged 105 wins and went 8-3 in the World Series. There is no easier pick than this.

Jimmy Carter (Seasons Covered: 1977-1980)

That’s right, it is another President with the Yankees as their dominant franchise! The Yankees timed their success in the late 1970’s perfectly for the Carter Presidency, winning back-to-back World Series to start, and making the 1980 playoffs. That’s not quite as impressive as their supremacy in some other terms, but it is more than enough here.

Ronald Reagan (Seasons Covered: 1981-1988)

For the first time since, I believe, FDR, we have a team from the President’s home state as the dominant team of the term, as The Great Communicator sees the Los Angeles Dodgers as the best team of two terms. (I know that Reagan was born in Illinois, but he was Governor of California, so that’s close enough to be a “home state” for me.) The Dodgers bookended Reagan’s years with World Series titles, and made the playoffs two other times.

George H.W. Bush (Seasons Covered: 1989-1992)

This is a tough one. A different team won the World Series in each year of Bush’s term, and 10 different teams appeared in the playoffs. Ultimately, I give the nod to the Oakland A’s, who won a World Series, an American League pennant and a division title in the four years. That is enough to edge out Toronto (one title, one division title) and Atlanta (two pennants, three division titles) for the spot.

Bill Clinton (Seasons Covered: 1993-2000)

That’s right, it’s the Yankees again! Although the Atlanta Braves were no slouch in this period, ultimately no one can complete with the dominance of Joe Torre’s early Yankee teams who won four titles and made the playoffs every year there were playoffs during Clinton’s time, besides 1993. For the record, there have been 16 post-World War I (that is, post-Wilson) Presidents, and the Yankees were the best team for seven of them: Coolidge, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton.

George W. Bush (Seasons Covered: 2001-2008)

It has been a long time since the Boston Red Sox could claim that they were the best team across a Presidency—since the days of Wilson, who died in 1924—but the Presidency of George W. Bush belongs to Fenway Park. In those eight seasons, Boston made five playoff appearances, and won two World Series titles. Other teams may have appeared more frequently in October, but ultimately, the ring’s the thing.

Barack Obama (Seasons Covered: 2009-Present)

Without knowing the results in November, of course, it is hard to judge Obama’s team. Speaking of his current term, so far the choice would again have to be the Yankees—the only World Series winner to appear in the playoffs all three years—but a World Series win by any of the Rangers, Cardinals or Phillies would shift things in their favor. Should another team come out on top, I will have to do some serious pondering. For information beyond 2012, you’ll have to consult your local psychic; my talents only go far.

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Marc Schneider
Marc Schneider

This may be nitpicking since it doesn’t really change the result for Taft, but the A’s won in 1910 and 1911 and the Red Sox won in 1912.

Also, JFK won the election in 1960 but did not take office until 1961 so he should not get credit for the 1960 season. That goes to Ike. 

Similarly, Obama doesn’t get credit for 2008 because he did not take office until 2009.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Interesting article.  How fitting that the Cubs are the winningest team for the guy who never wins the Presidents’ Race.

Gotta disagree with the Dodgers for Reagan, though.  They were just the sixth-winningest team from 1981-88, behind the Tigers (696 wins), Yankees (677), Cards (665), Mets (662), and Jays (661).  If you include postseason, I’d give it to the Cards, who won three pennants. 

A little surprised the Phils didn’t win for Obama, but their title was in ‘08, and the Yankees have actually won more games from ‘09-onward.

Steven Gray
Steven Gray

Very interesting article. The Yankees seem to be ever popular, seeing as they make a dominance every now and then! (Go Yankees!)


Yeah, cool analysis. I’d also be curious to know which teams simply had the best regular-season records during each presidency.