Frederick Flashback: The Presidential Visits
On June 8, 1991, the Frederick Keys played the Durham Bulls in front of a crowd of 7,912.
Among those in the stands at Harry Grove Stadium — and the reason they were so packed that day — was serving U.S. President George H. W. Bush.
On the 22nd Presidents Day since the 41st President’s inaugural visit to the ballpark in Frederick, let’s look back at his two trips to the Grove.
It’s no secret that the Bush family are avid baseball fans. Bush’s son and former President George W. used to own the Rangers. George H.W., an Astros fan, has been spotted at major league games in recent years. Back in 1947, he played in the first College World Series as a first baseman at Yale. Though the Bulldogs would fall in the best-of-three series to California, he fondly recounted playing in the championship in this 2007 Sports Illustrated article.
President Bush trekked from Camp David, the presidential retreat located in northern Frederick County, to the Grove twice during his presidency — for the Durham game in ’91 and again on August 8, 1992. (Camp David’s only about a 26-mile drive from the Keys’ stadium.) For his second Keys outing, Bush brought along the First Lady and several of his grandchildren.
Bush sat in the suite level at Harry Grove Stadium for both games. Obviously, security at the ballpark increased during his visits, with Secret Service agents manning doors and scattered elsewhere throughout the stadium.
The President’s security detail was particularly cautious with one Orioles Scout who came to the park with his radar gun in 1991. Jim Gilbert’s story, as told by The Baltimore Sun’s Pat O’Malley, is here. An excerpt from O’Malley’s July 28, 1991 column:
Gilbert, who resides in Hagerstown, was scheduled to work in Frederick that night and rate a pitcher. He shows up at a backdoor to the clubhouse only to be met by some huge, hulking guy who wanted to know what he wanted.
The guy happened to be a Secret Service agent, but Gil, unaware of the president’s visit, had no idea why he was guarding the door.
An argument ensued, and when the Secret Service man wanted to look in Gil’s black bag, all hell broke loose.
Gilbert told the guy that he had a radar gun (to clock the velocity on a pitcher’s fastball). With that, the agent shouted out, “A radar gun? What kind of gun did you say, a radar gun?”
Within seconds, Gilbert was surrounded by about 10 agents who wanted to see his radar gun. According to Gil, the agents didn’t have a clue what it was for.
As they started tugging at his bag, Gil grabbed the radar gun and ran across the room shouting “Wherever the gun goes, I go!”
Despite the Keys’ close proximity to Camp David, President Bush remains the only Commander-in-Chief to stop by the Grove for a ballgame.
Regarding non-presidential matters:
*Baltimore’s spring training minor league mini-camp opened today with 29 farmhands slated to participate. That list includes several former Keys and several more who will likely don Frederick orange and black this season.
*The Keys Job Fair will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 26-27) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each night in the Mattress Warehouse Club at Harry Grove Stadium. More info about the job fair is here.
*2012 Key Kevin Gausman found a high-calorie surprise in his locker at O’s spring training this weekend. Baltimore’s pitching prospect had a well-publicized habit of eating powdered mini-donuts before taking the mound in college, which Orioles center fielder Adam Jones parlayed into this clubhouse prank.
Shake your Keys.