Sports from the Vault: Who could ever forget Mayor Mallory's wild first pitch on Opening Day 2007?

...Or the look on Eric Davis' face

CINCINNATI -- "Juuuuussssst a bit outside!"

Bob Uecker uttered that famous phrase as broadcaster Harry Doyle in the movie "Major League" in 1989. But he could just as easily have been describing Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's famous (infamous?) first-pitch throw at Reds Opening Day in 2007.

Are you already thinking about it? Is the memory stuck inside your head? It should be.

Because, as more than one news service has stated, on that day, the Cincinnati mayor threw the worst first-pitch in baseball history.

Let's take you back.

On Opening Day in 2007, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory fires off the first pitch, which is wide left of home plate by about 20 yards. But he recovers nicely.

Mallory looked good at the start anyway, if a politician played baseball. He'd supposedly taken some time to practice and warm up. Clad in a black Reds jacket over his red tie, white shirt and slacks, he sported a black mitt on his left hand. His catcher, also dapper in a black suit with red pinstripes, was Reds legend Eric Davis. The photographers lined up to shoot and the fans seemed to actually be paying attention to the ceremonial pitch.

And they all got to witness greatness -- to a degree.

Mallory reared back and snapped a spinning screwball that traveled not toward Davis, but more than 20 feet away from home plate down the first base side.

Immediately, the Mayor shouted something as he watched the errant ball escape.

Everyone was stunned.

You could almost hear record-player needles screeching across vinyl.

It was that bad.

Stepping away from home plate, Eric Davis scrunched up his face, wincing painfully. The ball ended up bouncing off the foot of umpire Sam Holbrook, who then jokingly threw Mallory out of the game.

The game announcers did not spare him, either.

 

 

"That's one of the worst Opening Day pitches I've ever seen," said Chris Welsh, the Reds TV broadcaster. "As fine an athlete, and as much ground as he could cover as a defender with the Reds, (Davis) couldn't catch up with that one."

No. No, he could not.

Few remember that the Reds went on to beat the Cubs 5-1 behind seven strong innings of one-run baseball from Aaron Harang. Adam Dunn contributed two home runs to the cause.

Instead, Mallory became a nationwide punchline. From sea to shining sea, he was the talk of Opening Day. But even as the butt of the baseball joke, he handled it perfectly. He did not run from the attention; he embraced the attention.

Afterward, he had the perfect line for the Cincinnati Enquirer, when he said, "Eric Davis missed the sign. I called for a pitchout."

 

It built from there. Mallory's pitch -- and especially his reception to all the laughter – gained a life of its own. In his weekly meeting with the media, he presented a Letterman-esque Top Ten list of why his pitch didn't make it over the plate:

  • I have a shoulder injury from cracking the whip too hard on city council.
  • I got some last-minute tips from Lou Piniella.
  • I was protesting Ken Griffey's move to right field.
  • I didn't want to show up President Bush. He might put a wiretap on me.
  • I am saving my best stuff for the Bengals tryout.
  • First pitch? I thought I was throwing out the first bowling ball.
  • I grew up in the West End playing on concrete. Throwing on an actual field with grass and dirt threw me off.
  • Eric Davis' red shoes threw me off.
  • My best sport is putt-putt.
  • Eric Davis missed the sign. It was a pitch out.

Mallory was charming. He was self-deprecating and funny. His image soared. And he helped popularize the term, "You throw like a mayor."

Later that week he got a second chance when he was asked to be on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" late-night talk show.

Of course, that didn't work out, either. At least, not in a baseball sense.

Mallory's first throw again missed the target, instead sailing into the rows of people standing by to cheer him on -- but no worries, they all wore batting helmets for protection. Finally, actor Kurt Russell stepped in as catcher.

"Come on. Give me that again," Mallory said. He was then able to short-hop a throw over the plate on his "second, second chance," earning him a round of loud cheers. Mallory went on to make more appearances on Jimmy Kimmel's show and used his notoriety to tout Cincinnati's positives.

But until he left office in 2013, and even after, he was most known for his horrific pitch.

 

In 2015, the New York Daily News rated Mallory's pitch as the worst of all time, beating out throws made by (among others) a beauty queen, three female pop stars and a rapper.

TIME Magazine counted Mallory in its top 10 worst of all time, too, saying "Richard Nixon once said that a man unable to hold his own in a poker game was not fit to be president. The same could be said of politicians unable to hurl a Little League-caliber fastball."

Now, working as a senior vice president and national director of community economic development for an engineering services firm, Mallory is happy knowing he was able to use his notoriety to spread the good work of his town. He really did turn a negative into a positive.

"Who would have thought such a bad pitch could bring such good attention to the city of Cincinnati?" Mallory said afterward.

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