news 6 days ago

Did Teddy Roosevelt really watch Duke Ellington play baseball?

Sporting News — (Jordan Heck)

If you're watching Season 3, Episode 7 of Netflix's show "Big Mouth," then you're probably wondering if that story about Teddy Roosevelt and Duke Ellington is true. If you're not watching that show and somehow end up on this article, then we'll offer a brief summary of the show for you.

In the show, the ghost of Duke Ellington is a recurring character from Season 1. In Season 3, Ellington gets his own episode dedicated to his life. Early on in the episode, Ellington talks about how his early passion was playing baseball and he mentions former president Teddy Roosevelt used to watch him play.

Immediately after sharing this news, Ellington broke the fourth wall and told the audience to Google it. So here you are, probably.

And it turns out, this is actually true. 

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In his memoir, The Duke Ellington Reader, Ellington recalled a moment from childhood:

In that same book, he discussed his passion for the sport:

As for why he mostly quit his early passion? His mom was concerned about him playing the sport. And an incident on the field led to Ellington not playing baseball as a child.

From the New York Times:

But Ellington wouldn't stay away from baseball forever. As The Smithsonian points out, Ellington and other jazz musicians would often gather and play some games with each other. The New York Times explains Ellington's band "fielded a competitive baseball team, which played against teams from other orchestras."

“Duke Ellington couldn’t hit or throw, but he loved the game,” said jazz historian Phil Schaap to the Times.