Pitchers, catchers…and signers report: a Founding Fathers baseball dream team
Ah, Pitchers and Catchers Report: those four simple but beautiful words that alert us to the oncoming baseball season and bring with them thoughts of warm, lazy days spent at the ballpark. This year is also the 225th anniversary of the Constitution. In celebration of this most wonderful time of the year and most wonderful anniversary, the Constitution Daily sports desk assembled a crack team of historians, analysts, scholars, writers, statisticians and pundits to answer a question that has vexed constitutional historians and baseball fans for generations: If the framers of the Constitution were a baseball team, who would they be and what position would they play?
We carefully considered the personalities and contributions of our key founders to decide which position and Hall of Famer suited each one best. This time-consuming process led to many heated debates and resulted in at least one missing person. OK, who are we kidding–we made the whole thing up. Have fun and Happy Baseball Season/225th Anniversary!
Manager: George Washington
Who better to lead our team of founders onto the field than the man who led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and served as President of the Constitutional Convention and the first President of the United States? Washington was a gifted leader who surrounded himself with talented individuals and maximized that talent to obtain favorable results. For those reasons, Washington is our pick to be manager of our team and our Connie Mack, the legendary Philadelphia Athletics manager who won five World Series titles and nine American League Pennants in 50 years by assembling teams known as much for their baseball intelligence as their athletic ability.
Pitcher: James Madison
Madison may be a surprising pick to start on the mound for our team given his demeanor and appearance, which would make him seem more likely to write about the sport than to play it. However, Greg Maddux reminds us that a person does not have to look like the Incredible Hulk to be a dominant player. Just as Maddux dominated hitters during his career, Madison dominated early American politics; his powerful opening pitch for the Constitutional Convention was a thoughtful treatise called Vices of the Political System of the United States, and his vision helped frame the debates that emerged in the Constitutional Convention. He also helped interpret the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, was a leader throughout the ratification process, pushed for the addition of the Bill of Rights, and served as the fourth president of the United States. Not bad for a guy who was only 5’4”.
Catcher: Benjamin Franklin
The exploits of this printer/scientist/statesman are so fantastic that they may seem the work of fiction. Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, were he became a successful printer. He became so wealthy printing the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac that he was able to retire before his 44th birthday. He spent 18 years in England as a colonial representative before returning to America following the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Sometime during all of this, he found time to “discover” electricity with his famous kite experiment. Because Franklin’s life and personality unite the material of legend and reality, he is best represented by a hybrid of Crash Davis, the aging catcher brought in to guide the young upstart pitcher (and later fictionalized in the 1988 film Bull Durham), and Yankee catcher and sage Yogi Berra, whose famous quotes rival anything Franklin published in Poor Richard’s Almanac.
First Base: John Dickinson
Dickinson was a great early American statesmen. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress but did not sign the Declaration of Independence, desiring reconciliation with Britain over war. He also was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention but was forced to leave before the Constitution was signed due to illness (his colleague George Read signed for him in absentia). Although Dickinson enjoyed a long and successful career in American politics, he is often overshadowed by his peers. In this way Dickinson is our George Sisler, who is often overshadowed by the likes of Lou Gehrig, despite that fact that Sisler hit .400 for a season twice in his career, had a record 41-game hitting streak in 1922, and held the record for most hits in a single season (257) until 2004. Also, just as Dickinson missed that last day of the Constitutional Convention, Sisler missed a season in the prime of his career due to illness.
Second Base: James Wilson
Wilson was a man of both successes and failures. He enjoyed a successful career as a politician and lawyer, but also died a debtor due to huge losses in land speculation. Wilson was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For all his virtues and vices, Wilson is our Rogers Hornsby, a supremely talented player with whom teammates also struggled to get along and whose career was marred by his greatest vice: gambling.
Third Base: Gouvernor Morris
Few of the founders could match Morris in stature or personality. At about 6’4”, the burly Morris stood above the rest and was known to throw his considerable weight around during the debates. The primary architect of the Preamble and a key member of the Committee on Style, Governor Morris frequently made his opinions known, much like another favorite Philadelphian; Mike Schmidt.
Shortstop: Roger Sherman
Sherman is the only founder to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Association, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. He is also responsible for the Connecticut Compromise, which provided a necessary breakthrough for the fledgling convention. For his longevity and his role in “saving” the Constitutional Convention, Sherman is our Cal Ripken, who was praised for saving baseball after the 1994–95 players’ strike with his pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak.
Outfield: George Mason
The leader of the dissenters, Mason is our Curt Flood. Mason participated in the Constitutional Convention but refused to sign the document on Sept. 17 because he felt it did not do enough to protect the individual rights of Americans. Many of his grievances were later addressed with the addition of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, Flood risked his career by challenging Major League Baseball’s reserve clause by suing after he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Like Mason, Flood’s protest eventually led to a major change in the institution he protested against.
Outfield: Alexander Hamilton
What he lacked in physical stature, Hamilton made up for in intellectual power. Hamilton was regarded as brilliant in his own time, but his attitude, which bordered on pompous, occasionally rubbed his peers the wrong way. Known as a man of great style, Hamilton, the lone New Yorker to sign the Constitution, is our Mel Ott, another New Yorker with style, power, and his own unique stance.
Outfield: Jonathan Dayton
Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest delegate to sign the Constitution. He reportedly showed up late to the deliberations and was woefully underprepared. He frequently interjected himself into debates that were over his head and was not necessarily well regarded by his fellow delegates. He later was embroiled in a controversy with Aaron Burr to annex parts of the Western territories. Dayton is our Shoeless Joe Jackson, the famous Chicago White Sox slugger who was banned from baseball for his role in the 1919 scandal that saw the White Sox throw the World Series. Of course, like Dayton, the level of Jackson’s participation is still a matter of debate.
But wait, the fun doesn’t stop here. You can also take this quiz to figure out which Constitution framer you resemble.
Michael Simzak is the Youth Programs Coordinator at the National Constitution Center and the official sports writer for Constitution Daily.