"WHAT DOES my heart tell me?" Mario Cuomo asked rhetorically in a discussion of whether to run for president. " 'Mario, take your best shot, whether you win, lose or draw.' But my head is telling me, 'How do you do that and do the right thing as governor?' I'm working on my head at the moment."
The problem with Mario's head is that in 1952 while playing for the Brunswick (Ga.) Pirates of the Class D Georgia-Florida League, he was beaned. Never been the same since. His batting average fell to .244, and he gave up the outfield to become a lawyer.
Should Cuomo be nominated, it would be the first baseball player vs. baseball player presidential race in history. George Herbert Walker Bush played first base for Yale, batting .251 in 1947 and 1948.
Baseball players -- college or pro -- rarely become president. Herbert Hoover played freshman ball at Stanford. Dwight Eisenhower was briefly on the baseball team at West Point, but gave it up for football, at which he excelled. The New York Times called him "one of the most promising backs in Eastern football." But he played only a year.
Playing Carlisle, he hurt himself trying to injure and thus remove from play opposing star Jim Thorpe. (Ike?!) The next week he re-injured himself so badly in the Tufts game that he was never able to play again.
Eisenhower was one of the few college athletic stars from any sport to reach the White House. Jack Kennedy played football, but only on the Harvard junior varsity (he was also on the freshman swimming team)(no Teddy jokes, please). Richard Nixon was a sub on the Whittier College football team, but he vTC almost never played. Ronald Reagan was good enough to get a partial football scholarship at Eureka College, but did not excel. Teddy Roosevelt boxed a little at Harvard. Jimmy Carter ran cross country at the Naval Academy.
Gerald Ford is the only truly outstanding athlete to become president. He played center at a real football powerhouse. The University of Michigan was no Whittier or Eureka or Yale. Ford was good enough to play in the College All-Stars game against the pro champions in 1935. He was offered pro contracts but turned them down.
Mario Cuomo also said that if he ran for president, he would do well in the South. Recalling his Pirates days, he said, "I would kill them in Georgia."
Yeah, well, I was born and raised in Brunswick, and let me tell you, there is no Republican he would kill down there.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis got 36 percent of the vote in Brunswick's county (Glynn). That's also all Walter Mondale got in 1984. Georgia's own Jimmy Carter got only 50.1 percent there in 1980 (after carrying the county in 1976). In 1972, Nixon won with 75 percent of the vote.
So, Mario, don't romanticize your days in Georgia. Don't listen to your heart in deciding to run or not to run. Listen to your head, damaged though it may be.