WASHINGTON – This year is the 100th anniversary of baseball's unofficial anthem, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," but if you're President Bush, it's just as easy to bring the game to the White House.
Bush presided over a Tee Ball game on the South Lawn, then hosted a social dinner Wednesday in honor of Major League Baseball for about 240 players, members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, baseball officials and fans, administration officials and lawmakers.
The group, which included Baltimore Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, eight-time MLB all-star pitcher John Smoltz and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, dined on crab salad, rib-eye steaks and a dessert called "Peanuts and Cracker Jack."
Afterward, in his third White House performance, country musician Kenny Chesney sang about summertime, drinking wine from Dixie cups and seeing the world from the seat of an "old blue chair."
"It doesn't get better than this," Bush said after the performance in the Rose Garden. "Country music in the Rose Garden celebrating baseball."
The afternoon T-ball game was the 19th of his presidency. Bush, who was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers before leaving that job to run for Texas governor in 1994, began the T-ball tradition at the White House to honor the teamwork and spirit of the game he loves, baseball.
This time, the event had a wrinkle: It was an All-Star double-header, drawing children from every state and the District of Columbia. Girls and boys from the eastern and central parts of the country played against each other, and then in a second game, youngsters from the South and West played.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this historic occasion," Bush said as he got the festivities started under a hot sun. After declaring, "Play ball!" the president sat in the bleachers, smiling and chatting with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
In between games, Postmaster General Jack Potter unveiled the new "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" commemorative postage stamp. Among the earliest recordings of the tune, by lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert Von Tilzer, were renditions by the Haydn Quartet and singer Edward Meeker, both in 1908.