Did you ever have to memorize the names of the presidents as a kid? They made us commit a song to memory, set to the tune of the now-demographically-misnamed ditty "Ten Little Indians." We sang this song so often in Mrs. McRoberts' third-grade class that it will be on my brain while I lie on my deathbed. It's never escaping.
It's Fourth of July week, the perfect time for rote recitations of arcane factoids and extended listicles to impersonate patriotism and reasoned analysis. Some people sing Lee Greenwood songs on July 4; I think of that blasted song. And, of course, as always, I think about baseball. After all, when I say "Washington," there will be a not-insignificant percentage of the populace who will think not of "George," but "Claudell." I might be among that population.
Thus, to celebrate our nation's 241st birthday, let us pick the best player in Major League Baseball history for each president's name. As SB Nation's Grant Brisbee once pointed out, only 12 presidents have no MLB players with their names: Polk, Fillmore, Arthur, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, Coolidge, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Obama and Trump. Let's have a little nostalgic holiday remembering the best of each.
President George Washington: Claudell Washington (1974-90). You can make an argument for Ron Washington here -- particularly if you include his managerial career -- but I'll go with Claudell, for making an All-Star Game at the age of 20, for playing for seven teams and mostly for having a cameo appearance in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Also for a terrific fight with Mario Soto.
Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams: Matt Adams (2012-present). You've got a lot of Adams to choose from here -- Babe, Mike, Bobby -- but I'll give credit to Matt because he's the best of the three active Adams (Lane and Austin) and because he's the only person with a president's name who is going to be on the trading block later this month. Downside: He doesn't look like Taft anymore.
President Thomas Jefferson: Reggie Jefferson (1991-99). Jefferson is a player who might be more appreciated today -- a nice package of speed, on-base percentage and defense. He hit 100 points higher against righties than lefties, which would make a handy platoon guy. Feels like he'd make a great current-day Dodger.
President James Madison: Scotti Madison (1985-89). Sorry, it's cheating to use Madison Bumgarner here: You can't start tossing out first names, even if there are a bunch of players named "Barack" in 20 years. Anyway, I have no idea who Scotti Madison was, do you?
President James Monroe: Craig Monroe (2001-09). In an alternative universe, Monroe gets hot in the 2006 World Series and has a statue of himself outside Comerica Park. Instead, he'll have to go visit James Monroe's at the College of William & Mary.
President Andrew Jackson: Reggie Jackson (1967-87). Not only is Reggie Jackson by far the most famous athlete to ever have the last name Jackson, I'm pretty sure he's more famous than Andrew Jackson himself.
President Martin Van Buren: Jermaine Van Buren (2005-06). A righty reliever who bounced around the Rockies organization for a long time before making a few appearances with the Cubs and Red Sox a decade ago. Not related to the president.
President William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison: Josh Harrison (2011-present). Josh Harrison, unlike William H., has the good sense to stop talking and go inside when he has the flu, which is why his baseball career has lasted about 20 times longer than William H's presidency did.
President John Tyler: Johnnie Tyler (1934-35). As you might have heard, there are a ton of Tylers in Major League Baseball, especially on the Yankees. But last name Tyler? Not so much.
President James K. Polk: Wes Chamberlain (1990-95). This is the one of the two names in which there are no MLB players, though poor P.J. Polk made it all the way to Triple A 20 years ago but fell short. Wesley Polk Chamberlain is Wes' full name, which is enough to sneak him here on a technicality.
President Zachary Taylor: Michael Taylor (2014-present). When you're starting for a World Series contender, you get to be the pick here. Also, there was a baseball player named Chuck Taylor, but the shoes aren't named after him.
President Millard Fillmore: Kurt Fillmore (2001). This guy was never close to the Majors; he only played one season for the 2001 Independent League Dubois Country Dragons. But he's the most recent of three Fillmores on Baseball Reference, and darn it, that counts for something.
President Franklin Pierce: Billy Pierce (1945-64). Billy made his debut at the age of 18 during World War II but went on to a 17-year career when he returned in 1948, making seven All-Star Games. The White Sox retired his number -- he has a statue in Chicago now too -- and I prefer to pretend he was Hawkeye's dad.
President James Buchanan: Jake Buchanan (2014-present). On the list of "guys who won a ring for the Cubs of whom you have no memory ever playing for them," Buchanan is right there at the top, along with Munenori Kawasaki, Spencer Patton and Gerardo Concepcion.
President Abraham Lincoln: Mike Lincoln (1999-2010). Lincoln didn't pitch in the Majors from 2005-07, which I prefer to think of as his "Civil War period."
Presidents Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson: Randy Johnson (1988-2009). I prefer to think of Walter Johnson as Andrew Johnson's Johnson and Randy Johnson as Lyndon Johnson's Johnson.
President Ulysses Grant: Mudcat Grant (1958-71). Mudcat Grant's real name was "James," which is a shame; I wish it were actually Ulysses. Imagine having a given name of Ulysses but everyone calling you "Mudcat" instead.
President Rutherford B. Hayes: Von Hayes (1981-92). No offense to World Series-clinching Charlie Hayes, but Von Hayes was great and did this.
President James Garfield: Bill Garfield (1889-90). He pitched in 13 games for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the Cleveland Spiders. Famous for his deep antipathy toward Mondays.
President Chester Arthur: Arthur Rhodes (1991-2011). Yes, I know, first names don't count. But there were no Major Leaguers ever with the last name Arthur -- sort of surprising, right? -- and I'm not going to turn down an opportunity to shout out Arthur Rhodes. Best thing about Rhodes is that he finally won a World Series in his 20th and final season.
President Grover Cleveland: Reggie Cleveland (1969-81). Does Bill Simmons still talk about his "Reggie Cleveland All-Stars," or can you not make that joke anymore?
President William McKinley: Dan McKinley (1998-2002). A former first-round pick of the Giants, his career was cut short (and in fact never reached the Majors) by injury and ineffectiveness.
Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt: William Roosevelt (1907-08). He played in the Northwester League, for Butte, more than 100 years ago, and he's the only player ever to have the last name Roosevelt. Of course, Jackie Robinson had the middle name.
President William Taft: Brett Taft (1996-96). He never made the Majors, and it's a disappointment to learn that he was a slap-hitting utility infielder rather than a hulking, John Jaha-type.
President Woodrow Wilson: Hack Wilson (1923-34). You can argue that we should have gone with Mookie, but honestly, all baseball players with the last name Wilson should have to also be called "Mookie."
President Warren Harding: Charlie Harding (1913). He pitched two innings in one game for the 1913 Tigers. You've never done that.
President Calvin Coolidge: Cal McLish (1944-64). Remember his full name: Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.
President Herbert Hoover: J.J. Hoover (2012-present). Like J.J., Herbert Hoover was constantly picked up in presidential fantasy leagues as a vulture save option.
President Harry S. Truman: Truman Connell (1935-49). Sort of a Crash Davis of the '30s, if Crash Davis had left baseball for a decade to go fight in wars.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower: Charlie Eisenhower (2006). He had six at-bats and no hits for Laredo of the United League back in 2006. Isn't Baseball Reference just the most amazing thing in the world?
President John F. Kennedy: Ian Kennedy (2007-present). Ian Kennedy is of course most famous for Dayton Moore's "Happy Birthday" serenade during the pitch to get him to sign a five-year, $70 million contract before the 2016 season.
President Richard Nixon: Otis Nixon (1983-99). In 17 years, Otis Nixon never had a single OPS-plus over 100. He was never once an average hitter. I'm as disturbed by this as you.
President Gerald Ford: Whitey Ford (1950-67). Perhaps the only other person on this list other than Reggie Jackson who gained more fame than his presidential namesake.
President Jimmy Carter: Gary Carter (1974-92). The catcher Carter, at the very least, was an excellent ambassador to Canada.
President Ronald Reagan: Danny Reagan (1937-49). He took eight years off for the war. He was out of baseball by the time "Bedtime for Bonzo" came out.
Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush: Homer Bush (1997-2004). You could go with Matt, or Randy, or Dave, or Bullet Joe, but when I'm writing a baseball column, I'm going with the guy named Homer.
President Bill Clinton: Lou Clinton (1960-67). The one guy with a president's name who hit for the cycle.
President Barack Obama: You can't find a "Barack" or "Hussein" or "Obama" in baseball history. I bet you will by 2037, though.
President Donald Trump: Don Trump (1952). He batted 185 times for the Leesburg Packers of the Florida State League in 1952 at the age of 19. There appears to be no relation. Fun fact: Jon Matlack's full name is Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack.
* * *
Subscribe to Will's weekly newsletter and email him at email@example.com.