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Take Me Out To The White House

By Lloyd A. de Vries,
The Virtual Stamp Club

(Click Pictures for a Larger View)

The first day ceremony for the "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" stamp took maybe 5 minutes. The host didn't speak. Afterwards, many of the 5- and 6-year-old Tee Ball players to whom I spoke didn't remember the stamp.

But, oh, the photo opportunities! The host — President Bush — pulled the cloth off the illustration of the stamp. Country singer Kenny Chesney sang the commemorated song (even if the accompaniment was a cheesy recording that sounded as if it had been made with a discount-store synthesizer).

And both the regular White House press corps and sports press were there. While some may not have bothered to mention the stamp unveiling, at least they had the exposure to it. That's better than a stand-alone first-day ceremony. (Many of the home-town reports, featuring players from their towns, however, did briefly mention the stamp, as did the Associated Press story and the one on the Little League site.)

This was the first "All-Star Game" for Tee Ball, the entry program for Little League. Fifty-one boys and girls, one from each state plus the District of Columbia, formed four teams, by region. They were "coached" by current and former major-league players Kevin Millar, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Monday and John Smoltz.

The White House asked that the stamp ceremony be held in conjunction with the Tee Ball game, reports VSC member Rollin Berger. The VSC also learned that Major League Baseball may have wanted payment in return for holding the ceremony at one of its All-Star events earlier in the week.

The event was closed to the public. Only the 51 players, their families, White House staffers, invited guests (such as the major leaguers) and the press were able to attend.

For the first time, the U.S. Postal Service asked that members of the philatelic press be invited to one of these White House first-day ceremonies. The contingent included several Virtual Stamp Club members: Jay Bigalke of Linn's Stamp News, Chris Lazaroff of the VSC, and Berger of The Graebner Gazette. They're shown in the picture, left to right, with Bill McAllister of Linn's Stamp News second from right. Not pictured are Tom Beschorner of The Ceremonial and myself.

The best thing about a White House ceremony, Postmaster General John E. Potter told The Virtual Stamp Club, is "having the president there, and Mrs. Bush. Outstanding, and there's a lot of energy whenever they're at an event."

There was absolutely no question about holding the event at the executive mansion once the White House asked, Potter said, and the location, plus the timing (the day after the major league All-Star game), gave the stamp unveiling more coverage, or at least the potential of it.
The ceremony consisted of Potter making a few remarks.

"I can't think of a better venue than right here at the White House, the most prestigious field, the South Lawn, to have this great all-star game," Potter said.

Potter recounted attending New York Yankees games as a boy growing up in The Bronx.

"One of the best parts of the game, though, was the Seventh-Inning Stretch, when we all got to stand up, and at the time, we'd sing a song, the old 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game.' 'Buy me some peanuts and Cracker-Jack.' We'd never want to leave the game, we'd never want to go home," the Postmaster General said.

"Through stamps, we honor the great people and commemorate events, and the 100th anniversary of the song, we're going to honor today with a stamp," Potter said.

From left to right, country singer Kenny Chesney, President Bush, "Commissioner" Frank Robinson, and Postmaster General Potter.

Then the president, "Tee Ball Commissioner" Frank Robinson, Potter and Chesney pulling the cloth off the stamp design, and Chesney and the crowd sang "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." You can't tell from the audio file, which is from a feed off the sound system, but the crowd sang loudly and confidently.

(You can hear practically the entire ceremony here.)

I was disappointed the U.S. Marine Band, "The President's Own," wasn't there to accompany Chesney.

Robinson, a Hall of Fame player, coach and manager (most recently of the Washington Nationals, and a past participant in a White House Tee Ball game), was a substitute for Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who was ill that day.

All four teams of Tee Ballers were on the field for the ceremony.

"It was a great event for baseball, as well as a great event for the Postal Service, so we could our "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" stamp, get it a little recognition," Potter said in the interview.
There was no ceremony program per se for this event, but USPS spokesman Mark Saunders handed out press kits to the reporters and photographers that included a large poster. The poster mentions the ceremony and gives the time and two of the expected dignitaries. The consensus among stamp collectors present was that this amounts to a ceremony program.
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After the second game, as the crowd broke up, the Tee Ballers to have their picture taken with the president with the White House as a backdrop, Potter stopped at the cold-drinks tent. Then he chatted with some older Little League players, and talked briefly with The Virtual Stamp Club. You can hear that interview here.

That's National Postal Museum Curator Cheryl Ganz on the right.

You can hear my audio feature on issuing this stamp and any stamp at the White House here.

And you can read comments by other philatelic journalists who attended the stamp ceremony and other collectors here.

I wouldn't want every stamp issued at the White House, or even every high-profile stamp, but once a year or every few years is good.

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