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“Compliments of the President”

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish by mail.”
Andy Dufresne, “Shawshank Redemption,”

In the summer of 1979 I was a 13 year old baseball fan, Richard Nixon was five years removed from the most powerful job in the world, and the California Angels were having their best season in franchise history.
One day my mom mentioned that former President Nixon was moving from San Clemente to the East Coast to be near his daughters and grandkids. My mom mentioned that he had Angels season tickets and wondered what he was going to do with them when he moved.
Since our family usually sat out by the foul pole or in the upper view nose-bleeds seats, I quickly decided to write the former president a letter and inquire about the possible purchase of his remaining games that season.
About ten days later, I received this response from President Nixon.

Dear David,
With regard to your recent letter, Mrs. Nixon and I do not plan to
Move to New York until sometime around November 1.
Consequently we do not want to dispose of our season tickets for Angels
games. However, on August 11, helmet night, I thought you might
like to use my tickets which are enclosed. They are excellent seats,
right next to Mr. Autry’s box directly behind home plate.
We hope you and your dad will enjoy the game and will root the Angels
to a win.
Since I have such pleasant memories of the two years I attended Fullerton
High School, it is a special pleasure to have you as my guest that night.
Richard Nixon

The story became a lead story on the front page of the Fullerton News Tribune’s August 9th issue, “Youth 13 Puts Bite On Nixon.” The Los Angeles Times then picked up on it, and wrote an article too. At the game I was interviewed by a reporter from KFWB News radio, which caught the attention of Paul Harvey’s nationally syndicated radio show, “The Rest of the Story.”
In the days that lead up to the game I remember having a “Christmas morning” kind of excitement feeling that game day would never come. My seats were on club level near home plate on the first base side. Early in the game an Anaheim Stadium representative brought me a free hotdog saying, “Complements of the President.”
Later, I was invited to tour the press box and meet Dodger legend, Don Drysdale who was doing play-by-play for the Angels that year. Don Drysdale autographed my cast (I broke my arm that Summer at church, which is another story!)
Wearing my new Angels batting helmet, I watched Don Baylor hit a homerun and the Angels go on to beat the Seattle Mariners 8-1 that night. The Angels went on to win their first Western Division pennant during the 1979 “Yes We Can“ season.
The day after the game, I wrote President Nixon a thank you note and asked for an autographed picture which he sent. Say what you will about President Nixon, but out of all the presidents who have given me baseball tickets he’s my favorite!

Not only was it a great life experience at a young age, but I learned an important life lesson about asking for what you want in life. From then on, I was always willing to give it a shot. “You don’t ask, you don’t get!” is one of my life’s credos and has benefited me greatly in life.

The letter that President Nixon sent me is being included in the new exhibit at the Nixon Library called “Presidents and Baseball.” The exhibit opened April 6th and runs into October. For more information call (714) 364-1120 or visit www.NixonFoundation.org