Sunday, December 2, 2018

How President George H.W. Bush was set to play hero in the 1948 College World Series

President George H. W. Bush’s leadership can be traced back to his days as the captain of Yale University’s baseball team. The first baseman led Yale to the 1948 College World Series against the University of Southern California. His diamond presence was evident even as a young man, demonstrated by how one opponent clearly remembered the President’s role in deciding the 1948 College World Series more than six decades later.

“In 1948, we won the first national title for USC,” Art Mazmanian recalled during a 2009 phone interview from his California home. “We beat George Bush’s Yale team. He was their first baseman and captain. I remember everything. I have a good memory; it was just like yesterday. He got two hits in the three games. He batted seventh in the lineup and both of hits were doubles.”

President George H.W. Bush receiving Babe Ruth's manuscript at Yale / US National Archives
In the first game of the series, Yale had USC pinned down with a narrow one-run lead when Bush scored on an early error. Mazmanian described how USC thwarted Yale’s attempts to advance their margin.

“They had us beat 1-0,” he said. “Bush scored a run on our shortstop’s error in the third inning. In the sixth inning, they tried to double steal and we threw the guy out at the plate. In the eighth inning, [it was] the same thing and we threw the guy out at the plate.”

USC entered the top of the ninth with their backs to the wall as Yale looked to close out the game. The Trojans showed their fighting spirit by scoring three runs in the top of the inning to set up a drama filled final frame.

“In the top of the ninth we scored three runs, so we’re up 3-1,” he said. “They come up, and the first guy singled. The next guy walked, and then the next guy hit a shot off of our third baseman who was a very good fielder. He managed to knock it down, but everyone was safe. It was now bases loaded and nobody out.

“They put in a redheaded guy to pinch hit, his last name was Breen. He hit the first pitch back to the pitcher. Wally [Hood] threw home for one out and then [the catcher] threw to first base for a double play. The guy on second base rounded too far and [our] first baseman threw the ball across the diamond, but he threw it in the dirt. If the ball gets by [him], two runs score and they tie the game. Our third baseman Bill Lilly came up with the ball, tagged the guy, and the game was over.”

The Yale base-running gaffe may have ultimately cost the Bulldogs the National Championship, as the Bulldogs won the second game 8-3, before dropping the deciding contest 9-2. Mazmanian, who led the series in hitting (6-11), revealed that the future President was left stranded on-deck during that wild ninth inning of Game 1.

“You know who the next batter was?” Mazmanian asked. “George Bush! And Bush has never forgotten that play. I have an article and a picture of him on the wall, and he calls it, ‘The Play.’ And he’s never forgotten it; he would have been the next hitter.”

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