By Joel Alderman
Yale’s baseball team has dedicated its 2014 season, which begins on Feb. 28th, to former U.S. President, George H. W. (“Poppy”) Bush. The connection is obvious. Long before Bush became a political leader, he was a leader of a different kind, the captain and first baseman of the 1948 Bulldogs.
Paying this tribute to Bush came about after the current captain, Cale Hanson, received an invitation from Poppy, a nickname since childhood and one he was popularly known by during his time in New Haven and especially as a baseball player.
Bush wanted to meet with the current captain during his past winter break from Yale. The get together took place in Bush’s office in Houston on January 8th, and lasted about 15 minutes.
The senior from Katy, Texas, was recently interviewed by James Badas, who is a Yale freshman from Oxford, Conn., already on the staff of the Yale Daily News (YDN), the university’s student newspaper. Hanson told him that upon being introduced to Bush, the first question was “How’s the team looking?”
Hanson was impressed. He said his immediate thought was “This is an ex-President of the United States and he’s asking about Yale baseball.”
When Hanson asked Bush for advice to pass along to his teammates, it was “Never give up.”
The gift from one Yale captain to another
Last spring, when he was elected captain of this year’s squad, Hanson passed a few baseballs around to be signed by his teammates. In the January meeting in Houston he presented one of them to the man who had also been a Yale captain, albeit sixty-six years earlier.
At the same time, he proudly informed him that his Yale team has decided to be playing the full season in his honor and that “You’re obviously an awesome inspiration to all of us.”
In describing what came next, Hanson told Badas, the YDN writer, that Bush’s eyes kind of lit up and he said, “Well I want to make it out to a game.”
A bit of Yale baseball history
Yale has been playing baseball since 1865. The 41st U.S. president, now 89, was on the 1947 and 1948 teams coached by former major leaguer Ethan Allen.
Yale was a national contender then, and the ’47 and ’48 teams advanced to the finals of the first two College World Series, finishing in second place each time.
Poppy and his wife, Barbara, had an infant son born in New Haven during his undergraduate days, The son, who was also to attend Yale, become the 43rd President of the U.S. He is, of course, George W. Bush.
How the Texas “summit” meeting happened
Hanson and Bush not only live in Texas, but in close proximity – Bush in Houston and Hanson in Katy, just a “stone’s throw” away.
The 2014 Eli captain told the Houston Chronicle that when Yale accepted him, Bush “sent me a letter, and I think he does this for most of the kids from Houston who get into Yale, wishing us luck,” Hanson said.
“I sent a letter back thanking him and I mentioned playing baseball. He sent me a picture of him and Babe Ruth,” he said.
The opportunity to go face to face came after Hanson was elected captain last spring, and he wrote to Bush again. This time he received a call from one of his office staff saying he wanted to meet him.
Hanson was accompanied to the meeting by his father, Doug Hanson, who said “It was one of the proudest moments of my life to see my son shaking hands with the President.”
And Cale Hanson offered these thoughts, as printed in the YDN:
“Obviously not a ton of kids go to Yale from Katy, Texas. . .We may not be learning anything different from what you could learn at the University of Texas or Texas A & M, but it’s the people you’re around and the connections that you make, and the people that you’re learning from, and there’s no better example than this.
“If I was the captain of any other school’s baseball team, I would not have gotten to meet President George H. W. Bush. It’s just that Yale network that you can’t put a price tag on.”
Cale Hanson, the baseball player
Hanson was considered a good pro prospect before breaking his wrist last year. He was an Ivy League Rookie of the Week as a freshman when he played center field.
His sophomore year he was moved to short stop, his natural position, batted .340, and was second team All-Ivy. He was voted as the team’s co-MVP.
Last year he received honorable mention from the Ivy League coaches, although he broke his left wrist after 11 starts at shortstop. His bat swing was affected but not his arm strength.
So Yale’s coach John Stuper, a former National League pitcher, sent him to the mound. He finished the season making 12 pitching appearances, one as a starter. He had a 1-2 record with two saves and a 3.39 ERA.
Hanson’s father told the Katy Times that his son “received some interest from pro teams prior to last season, but all that changed when he broke his left wrist.” Instead of playing baseball last summer, Hanson interned with a Houston health care company.
More similarities between Bush and Hanson
In addition to George H. W. Bush and Cale Hanson each being a Yale baseball captain, spanning a time period of 66 years, and both having their home in the Houston, Texas area, there are at least a couple of other similarities they share.
They both chose to major in economics at Yale, and each was or is in the same fraternity (Delta Kappa Epsilon).
Although Hanson still hopes to play professionally, his father, Doug, thinks that because the surgery kept him out of summer ball “he lost momentum with the scouts,” and that “the odds are against him.”
This could mean that he should now set his sights on something else.
The ultimate similarity
Could that something else be politics? Perhaps Cale, the Yale baseball captain, will someday become a President of the United States.
NOW THAT WOULD REALLY BE A SIMILARITY.
Editor’s Note: Yale opens its season with a three-game series at No. 3 LSU, which began the season 7-0. Facing the Tigers may very well be a tougher task for Hanson than meeting Mr. Bush.
Arthur, Ty. (2014, Feb. 12). Yale baseball team captain gets presidential seal of approval. Houston Chronicle.
Badas, James (2014, Feb. 20). Presidential visit for Yale captain. Yale Daily News
Desmore, Greg. (2014, Jan. 16). Talking baseball, leadership with #41: Katyites visit with President George H. W. Bush. Katy Times.