Nixon and Sports: Chronology

Nixon Home | Introduction | Timeline | Photos | Quotes | Related Publications
Bibliography | Media Recognition | Author Background

This chronology covers important dates during the Nixon presidency related to sports.  Other key events marking the beginning and end of Nixon's tenure in the White House are also included.

January 20
Richard M. Nixon becomes President of the United States of America.

February 6
Vince Lombardi becomes the new executive vice president and head coach of the Washington Redskins football team, controlling the major aspects of team operations.  Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich, calls the selection of the new coach "Washington's greatest transfer of power since Jan. 20."  At the press conference, announcing his arrival, Lombardi remarks: "If the President is a pro football fan, he ought to be out to our games here in his home city."

February 13
Ted Williams becomes the manager of the Washington Senators baseball club.

April 7
Nixon throws out the first ball of the season at a Washington Senators-New York Yankees game at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.  While trying to throw the first pitch, the President drops the ball, committing the first error of the 1969 season.  The Yankees win the game, 8-4.

May 3
Nixon attends the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.  This is the first time that a sitting U.S. President has attended the race.  Majestic Prince wins the contest.

May 24
Nixon informs White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman that he wants to hold a dinner or reception for the players in the Baseball All-Star Game that Washington, D.C. will host in July.

June 11
Nixon attends a Washington-Oakland A's game at RFK Stadium.  Reggie Jackson, an outfielder for Oakland, hits two home runs that day, keeping him on pace to break the eight year-old record of Roger Marris for most home runs in a season.

June 16
The President sends a telegram thanking Jackson for hitting the home runs while he was in the ball park.

July 14
Nixon signs a baseball from the Hall of Fame that displays the signatures of nine other Presidents.  "This is the most famous autographed baseball," he remarks in an Oval Office ceremony.

July 21
As part of the centennial celebrations of professional baseball, Major League Baseball holds a dinner at the Shearaton Park Hotel in Washington and names the greatest players at various positions, presenting these individuals or their next-of-kin with gold trophies.

July 22
Nixon hosts a White House reception for members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the widows of deceased members, various Major League Baseball officials, and the players in the All-Star Game.  In ceremonies before the reception, Warren Giles, president of the National League, presents Nixon with a gold lifetime pass to National League games.  Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn gives the President a trophy, similar to the type presented the night before, naming him "Baseball's Number One Fan."  Thunder storms and heavy rain start during the reception and force the postponement of the game. Nixon leaves that evening to welcome home the astronauts of Apollo 11.

July 23
Vice President Spiro Agnew throws out the first ball at the All-Star Game.

July 24
Nixon meets with the crew of Apollo 11 aboard the U.S.S. Hornet.  Flight commander Neil Armstrong apologizes for making the President miss the All-Star Game.  Nixon is surprised he knew the game was rained out.

September 27
Rutgers defeats Princeton in the 100th anniversary game of college football, 29-0.

October 1
The Washington Senators end their season with a 86-76 record.  This is the first winning mark in the history of this expansion franchise.

October 6
Harry Dent, the White House liaison with southern members of Congress, suggests to Haldeman that the President attend a football game in the South as a good way to get regional publicity, given the importance of the sport in the region.

October 20
The Associated Press names Ted Williams American League Manager of the Year.

November 15
The Moratorium, an anti-war protest rally of 250,000, gathers in Washington.  Nixon spends the day watching the Ohio State-Purdue football game.  Ohio State wins, 42-14.

November 16
President Nixon sits in the stands at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and becomes the first U.S. President to attend a regular season National Football League game while in office.  Washington loses to the Dallas Cowboys, 41-28.

November 22
The University of Michigan football team defeats defending national champion and top ranked Ohio State, 24-12.  Nixon cuts a budget meeting short short to watch the game, and has a television put in an office so he can continue to watch the game during a dental appointment.  In his diary, H.R. Haldeman calls it a "pretty funny day."

December 1
Nixon decides he will attend the Texas-Arkansas game, a contest between the first and second spots in the Associated Press poll of college football, setting up a climatic match between the schools in the last weekend of the regular season.  He also decides to present a Presidential plaque naming the winner of the game the number one team in the centennial year of college football.  Several hours later, he receives telegrams from John Hammerschmidt, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arkansas, and John Mooney, president of the Football Writers Association of America and sports editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, inviting him to watch the game in person.

December 2
The White House announces that the President will attend the Texas-Arkansas game, and present a national championship trophy to the winner.  Press accounts attribute the decision to the Mooney telegram.

December 5
Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania holds a press conference and sends a telegram to the White House protesting Nixon's decision to award the national title to the Texas-Arkansas winner.  The Penn State Nittany Lions are also undefeated and have a longer winning streak than either team.  Shafer claims it would be better to wait until after the bowl games are played to determine who is the number one team in college football. In response to these protests, White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler announces that Nixon will present a plaque to Penn State for having the longest winning streak in college football.

December 6
Nixon travels to Arkansas to watch the Texas-Arkansas game.  Poor weather causes him to arrive just after kick-off.  Arkansas takes a 7-0 lead into half-time.  In a television appearance during the intermission, the President predicts that the Texas offense is strong enough to score once or twice.  The Longhorns score twice in the fourth quarter and win, 15-14.  After the game, Nixon goes to the Texas locker room and presents head coach Darrell Royal with a plaque that awards the 1969 national championship to the Longhorns.  He also visits the Razorback dressing room and talks with the team before returning to Washington.

After the game, Paterno announces he will not accept Nixon's award.  "It would seem a waste of his very valuable time to present a plaque for something we already have undisputed possession of--the nation's longest winning streak," the coach explained.  "To accept any other plaque prior to the bowl games games, which will determine the final number one team, would be a disservice to our squad, to Pennsylvania, to the East, which we represent and perhaps, most important, to Missouri, which may be the best football team in the country."  (Penn State will play Missouri in the Orange Bowl on January 1).

December 7
The National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame awards the MacArthur Bowl, its national championship trophy, to the Texas Longhorns.

December 8
United Press International awards its national title to the Texas Longhorns.

At a press conference that evening, Nixon jokes that he might have made a mistake in trying to play a role in determining the national championship.

December 9
In a speech at the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Dinner, Nixon remarks that Penn State deserves a portion of the national title. He also states that Texas deserves to be number one, because the team refused to give up even though Arkansas had a strong lead.  At the dinner, Royal promises Nixon that the Longhorns will win the Cotton Bowl, and secure their claim to the national title.

December 10
Penn State receives its third straight Lambert Trophy that goes to the best team in the East matching the previous mark for consecutive awards.  "Any team that can tie the record of the Army juggernaut of 1944-45-46 has carved for itself an enduring place in the annals of football greatness," Nixon states in a telegram to Paterno.  In accepting the award, Paterno says, "I couldn't feel better about receiving this trophy if it were presented on television by the President of the United States."

December 21
The Washington Redskins end their season with a 7-5-2 record.  This mark is the first winning season for the team in 14 years.

January 1
The Texas Longhorns defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, 21-17, ending the season with a perfect record.  Penn State defeats Missouri in the Orange Bowl, 10-3, also ending their season with a perfect mark. Nixon calls Royal and congratulates him on the victory.

January 3
The Football Writers Association of America gives Texas its Grantland Rice Award, and with it the Association's national championship title.  The Associated Press releases its final poll with Texas ranked first and Penn State second, giving Texas the Associated Press national title.

March 2
Haldeman assigns Chuck Stuart, a member of his staff, responsibility for coordinating the efforts of the Federal Government to support the bid of Los Angeles to host the 1976 Olympic summer games.

April 6
David Eisenhower, Nixon's son-in-law, throws out the first ball of the 1970 season at a Senators-Detroit Tigers game at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.  The President arrives during the fifth inning of the game after the U.S. Senate voted 51-45 to reject his nomination of Judge G. Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Tigers win, 5-0.

May 12
The International Olympic Committee awards the 1976 summer games to Montreal, and the winter games to Denver, Colorado.

July 14
After making appearances in Louisville, Kentucky, Nixon goes to Cincinnati, Ohio and throws out the first ball of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  Robert Taft, Jr., a representative from Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives and a candidate for the U.S. Senate sits with him at the game.  Four young girls make news when the approach Nixon in his seat and get his autograph.  The National League wins a 5-4 game.  Carl Yastrzemski, an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, is named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

September 3
Washington Redskins head coach Vince Lombardi dies from cancer.

October 2
A plane carrying members of the Wichita State University football team, their coaches, and members of the school's athletic staff crashes in Colorado.  Of the forty people on board the plane, thirty-one die.

October 3
Nixon sends Wichita State President Clark Ahleberg a telegram from Air Force One.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this sad hour," he states.

October 17
Nixon travels to Green Bay, Wisconsin to speak at a testimonial dinner in honor of Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.

November 14
The plane carrying the football team of Marshall University crashes, killing thirty-seven.

November 17
Nixon sends a cable to Donald Dedmon, president of Marshall University.  He offers his condolences on the crash: "Our thoughts are with those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.  We pray that God may arm them with the strength and courage to bear the anguish of a misfortune that touches the hears of all their fellow citizens."

December 9
Nixon contributes a $500 check to a fund for survivors of the Wichita State plane crash.

January 1
Nebraska defeats the Tigers of Louisiana State University in the Orange Bowl, 17-12.  The Cornhuskers end their season with a perfect, undefeated record.

January 6
George Allen becomes the head coach of the Washington Redskins, ending the tenure of interim coach Bill Austin.

January 13
While giving a speech at the University of Nebraska, Nixon presents head football coach Bob Devaney with a presidential plaque certifying that the Cornhuskers are the 1970 national champions.

April 13
In a visit to the White House, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox gives Nixon the All-Star Game MVP trophy he won in 1970.

July 1
Roger Ailes, a Republican campaign strategist, writes Larry Higby, an administrative aide to White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, and suggests that it might help Nixon's public image if the President takes some action to help the Washington Senators with their financial difficulties that would make their reported move out of Washington unnecessary.

July 30
Nixon travels to Canton, Ohio, home of the Professional Football Hall of Fame.  That evening he gives the keynote speech at a banquet honoring seven new inductees into the Hall of Fame.

July 31
An interview Nixon gave the day before with sports commentator Frank Gifford of the ABC television network is aired during half time of the NFL Hall of Fame game.

August 16
Sen. William B. Spong, Jr. of Virginia writes Nixon and asks him to meet with Shirley Povich, a sports columnist for The Washington Post, about blocking the move of the Washington Senators.

August 25
Martie Zad, sports editor of The Washington Post, writes to Nixon, and asks that he and Povich be allowed a short meeting with him to invoke the prestige of the Presidency against the relocation of the Washington Senators.

September 7
Herbert Klein, White House director of communications, writes Zad and informs him it would be "inappropriate" for the President to intervene in the financial affairs of a professional baseball team.

September 19
Nixon publicly states that it would be "heartbreaking" if the Washington Senators move to Dallas, Texas.

September 21
In a 10-2 vote, the American League approves the move of the Senators to Arlington, Texas, a suburb between Dallas and Ft. Worth.  White House press secretary Ron Ziegler announces that the President is "distressed" about the Senators departure and will consider the California Angeles his home team now.

September 30
The Senators play their last game in Washington, and are forced to forfeit the game to the Yankees when fans storm onto the field trying to take souvenirs from the game.

November 21
The Washington Redskins lose to the Dallas Cowboys, 13-0.  The crowd in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium boos the home team.

November 23
Nixon makes an unannounced visit to the Washington Redskins at their practice facilities at Redskins Park, Virginia.  He tells the team to ignore those who booed.  "A great majority of people in this town back the team," he remarks. "You have been good for this city."

That same day the Washington Senators, now located in Arlington, Texas, announce they are changing their name to the Texas Rangers.

December 13
The Redskins defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 38-24, and make the playoffs for the first time since 1945.

December 26
The Washington Redskins lose in the playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers, 24-20.  The Redskins lose 13 yards on a play that Allen says that the President suggested.  This statement is false; it is an effort on Allen's part to inspire the team.  He, however, tells the team that Nixon designed the play only after getting the President's approval.  After the game, Nixon calls Allen and tells him that the entire city is proud of the team.

January 3
Nixon calls Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula at 1:30 a.m.  During the phone conversation, the President suggests that the Dolphins use a quick slant pass play in the Super Bowl.  Their talk lasts roughly 10 minutes.

January 4
Press coverage of the Nixon-Shula conversation gives the misleading impression that Nixon actually designed a play for the Dolphins.

January 16
The Dallas Cowboys defeat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI by the score of 24-3.  The Dolphins use a quick slant pass on the eighth play of the game, which results in an incompletion.  Nixon calls Dallas Head Coach Tom Landry after the game and compares the Cowboys to the dominate Green Bay Packer teams of the 1960s.

March 31
The Major League Baseball Players Association votes to go on strike on April 1.  The union and the owners disagree on the length of time and amount that the owners should contribute to the players pension fund.  The Players Association announces its willingness to accept the arbitration of a prominent individual not associated with the sport.

April 1
Professional baseball players go on strike.

April 8
Nixon suggests that he and Vice President Spiro Agnew act as arbitrators in the strike. Haldeman raises the idea in a telephone call with Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of Major League baseball.  Kuhn declines.

April 9
Nixon offers the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to end the strike.

April 11
The owners and players agree on the pension issues, but the strike continues as they disagree on when to start the season and if the players should be paid for any make up games.

April 13
The owners and players agree not to make up the games lost to the strike.

April 15
The baseball season begins.

April 18
Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of Major League baseball, testifies before the U.S. Senate District of Columbia Affairs Committee, and states that if Washington is to get another professional baseball team, it will have to be through the relocation of an existing franchise.   He explains that the sport has over extend itself and that there are no plans to create any new expansion teams in the near future.

June 17
Four men working for the Committee to Re-Elect the President break into the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee.  The four are caught and arrested while planting listening devices.

June 19
In a 5-3 vote, the United States Supreme Court rules that the anti-trust exemption that Major League Baseball enjoys is Constitutional, but calls on Congress to repeal the sport's special status.

June 22
Nixon holds a press conference at the White House.  Only one question is about Watergate.  Nixon has no comment to make when asked about the court ruling on baseball.  At the end of the conference, Cliff Evans, a reporter for RKO Radio, asks the President to name his favorite baseball players.  Nixon names three and then stops.  Evans follows up and asks him to select an all-time all-star team.  The President agrees.

June 23
At 10:04 a.m., Nixon meets with his Chief of Staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and directs cover-up efforts to block the investigation of the Watergate break-in.  A recording of this conversation becomes known as the "Smoking Gun Tape," and proves that the President is guilty of obstruction of justice.

Nixon has the White House staff, including Haldeman and Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, begin collecting statistical information on former baseball players for his all-star team.

June 25
While at Camp David, Nixon works on his historic all-star list with the help of son-in-law David Eisenhower.

June 27
Nixon makes revisions to his baseball all-star roster, and writes an article to accompany the list in which he names the most talented players in various baseball skills.

July 2
Nixon's article and historic all-star baseball team rosters appears in the Sunday edition of newspapers all across the country.  Instead of one team, he selected four different teams--a pre- and post-war team for both the American and National Leagues.  The amount of space given to this endeavor varies greatly from publication to publication, but Nixon generally receives considerable positive coverage for the effort.

September 5-6
Terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Organization kill two Israeli Olympic team members and take another nine hostage at the Munich games.  During the course of the 23 hour crisis, all the Israelis are killed.  The Nixon White House sends a note to Germany on behalf of Israel, asking that the games be suspended during the incident.  The President refuses suggestions coming from the American Jewish community that the U.S. recall its Olympic team and boycott the rest of the games.

October 3
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Kauper testifies before a Senate sub-committee and states that Nixon wants legislation to prohibit professional sports leagues from blacking out home coverage of home games.

October 10
White Staff members propose that Nixon attend ceremonies scheduled for the second game of the World Series, honoring Jackie Robinson and recognizing the twenty-fifth anniversary of the desegregation of Major League Baseball.  The White House staff has already obtained a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission to the equal time rule for political candidates.  Nixon rejects the proposal, saying his schedule is too full.

October 15
Robinson throws out the first ball of game two at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.   Nixon spends the day at Camp David, watching professional football games.

October 24
Jackie Robinson dies.  In a public statement on Robinson's death, Nixon says: "His courage, his sense of brotherhood, and his brilliance on the playing field brought a new human dimension not only to the game of baseball but to every area of American life where black and while people work side by side."

October 27
Robert Finch, counselor to the President, leads a forty man White House delegation to the Robinson funeral in New York.

November 7
Nixon defeats the Democratic Presidential nominee, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota in the general election. Nixon's victory is a landslide.  He garners 47 million votes, or 60.7 percent of the vote, and wins every state, except Massachusetts.

Voters in Colorado approve a referendum initiative that prohibits the state from spending public funds in support of the Denver Winter Olympic games.

November 8
The Denver Olympic Organizing Committee informs the International Olympic Committee that it is no longer possible for the city to host the Olympiad.

December 3
In an interview published as a cover article in the "Style" section of The Washington Post, a heavily intoxicated Washington Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer claims that Nixon's enthusiasm for the team is counterproductive and that he plans to ask head coach George Allen to do something about keeping the President away from the team.

December 30
Attorney General Richard Kleindienst ends a series of meetings he had been holding with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle about changing the league's policy of blacking out home games.  Kleindienst publicly states the administration will seek legislation that will force the league to end this practice.

December 31
While delivering humanitarian relief to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua, Roberto Clemente, an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, dies in a plane crash off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

That same day the Washington Redskins defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 26-3, in the National Football Conference Championship Game. The Miami Dolphins defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17 in the American Football Conference Championship Game.  Both winning teams will meet in Super Bowl VII.

January 1
Redskins coach George Allen visits the White House, and Nixon promises him that he will root for the Redskins in Super Bowl VII against the Miami Dolphins. The President also gives Allen a pin with the presidential seal and a letter.  Both items are for Billy Kilmer to give to his daughter Kathy, who has cerebral palsy.

January 2
In a public statement about Clemente, Nixon calls him "one of the greatest baseball players of our time.  He also says: "In the tragedy of his untimely death, we are reminded that he deserved even greater respect and admiration for his splendid qualities as a generous and kind human being."

January 3
Nixon gives a $1,000 check in Clemente's memory to the Nicaraguan embassy.  At the President's request, Daniel Galbreath, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Pirate players Dave Glusti and Steve Blass meet with him about setting up a memorial fund in Clemente's honor to continue his work of aiding the survivors of the earthquake.

January 8
While in San Juan to represent the President at the swearing in of the new mayor, Anne Armstrong, Counselor to the President, visits the Clemente family to pay the President's respects.

January 14
The Dolphins defeat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII by the score of 14-7.  The Dolphins end their season with a perfect 17-0 record.  Dolphin fans honk their car horns as they drive past the residential compound in Key Biscayne, Florida where Nixon is staying.

January 15
Nixon calls Shula and congratulates the Dolphins for their victory.

January 20
Nixon is sworn in for a second term as President of the United States.

April 6
Nixon throws the first pitch of the season at a California Angles game.  This is the first time that a U.S. President has performed this ceremonial activity in a city other than Washington, D.C.

April 30
In an effort to end the investigations into the Watergate affair, Nixon gives a televised speech from the Oval Office, and announces the resignation of Haldeman, Counselor to the President John Ehrlichman, Counsel to the President John Dean, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst.

May 14
In an Oval Office ceremony, Nixon posthumously presents the first Presidential Citizens Medal to Roberto Clemente.  Vera Clemente accepts the award on her husband's behalf. Nixon also signs House Resolution 3841 into law [Public Law 93-33 (87 Stat.71)], which authorizes the striking of a gold commemorative medal in Clemente's honor.  Profits from the sale of 200,000 duplicates medallions will go to the Roberto Clemente Memorial Fund.

May 28
C.A. Smith, owner of the San Diego Padres, announces that he has sold the baseball team to a Washington, D.C. based syndicated.  The group, led by Joseph Danzansky, president of Giant Foods, an area food store chain, plans to move the team to Washington.

July 13
Alexander Butterfield, former administrative aide to H.R. Haldeman, reveals to Congressional staff members that the White House has a hidden tape recording system.

July 16
Butterfield appears before the Select Congressional committee investigating Watergate and repeats his remarks in public.

August 29
Archibald Cox, the independent prosecutor investigating Watergate, subpoenas the White House tapes.

September 6
In a 76-6 vote, the U.S. Senate moves to ban television blackouts of professional sport games that sell out 72 hours or more before the event.

September 7
At Danzansky's request, Nixon sends a letter to Charles Feeney, president of the National League of professional baseball, supporting the return of a major league team to Washington, D.C.

September 10
The Communications Sub-Committee of the Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approves a bill to ban television blackouts of professional sport games that sell out 72 hours or more before the event.

September 13
The NFL repeals its blackout policy.  The U.S. House of Representatives approves the Communications Sub-Committee bill with a 336-37 vote.

October 20
Nixon fires Cox and the subpoena for the tapes expires.  Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resign rather than carry out this order to remove Cox.  This episode becomes known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."

December 6
In a unanimous vote, the National League tentatively approves the sale and relocation to Washington of the San Diego Padres, provided that the Danzansky syndicate meets certain financial requirements.

Nixon sends Danzansky a telegram, congratulating him on bringing professional baseball back to the nation's capital.

December 21
The Danzansky group fails to meet the financial requirements of the National League.

December 29
C.A. Smith announces he has sold the Padres to a California based syndicate.

April 8
Outfielder Henry Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking the record previously held by Babe Ruth.  Nixon calls Aaron during the game to congratulate him, and the two talk during the bottom half of the sixth inning.

July 17
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean dies.  Nixon issues a public statement: "To my generation of Americans, Dizzy Dean will always be remembered as the blazing young fastballer who led the Gashouse Gang of St. Louis to the pinnacle of baseball glory."

July 24
The U.S. Supreme Court rules 8-0 in the United States v. Nixon that the President must turn over the subpoenaed tapes.

August 5
The subpoenaed tapes, including the "Smoking Gun" recording, are made public.

August 7
Nixon meets with Republican leaders in Congress.  Sen. Barry Goldwater, Sen. Hugh Scott, and Rep. John Rhodes inform him that the House of Representatives will impeach him and that a near unanimous Senate will vote to remove him from office.  Even though he had decided to resign before this meeting, Nixon will publicly explain that this conference convinced him to leave office.

August 8
Nixon gives a televised speech, announcing he will resign the Presidency.  A total of 150 million people either watch the announcement on television or listen to it on radio.

August 9
Nixon resigns.  Vice President Gerald Ford becomes the President of the United States. 


Return to Nixon and Sports main page