News from Washington, DC …
“A Base Ball Club has just been formed in this city. … It is a good sign to see such health-promoting exercises taking the place of insipid enervating amusements.” ~ The Washington Star, November 4, 1859
See, things were enervating back then, too.
There are far more important websites – newsy-type places trying to make sense of today’s Washington – you could be reading right now and I encourage you to do that.
In a sec.
Because, there was a time when, just south of the White House, they played baseball.
According to Histories of the National Mall, the first baseball games were held on the White Lot – the 52-acre park south of the White House that is now the Ellipse – in 1860.
The White Lot baseball fields in the mid-1940s.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln would take an occasional break from war strategy and catch a game at the White Lot with his son Tad.
In 1865, President Andrew Johnson was so excited to see a game there between two of the best teams in the country that he gave his staff time off and set up chairs along the first-base side for them to watch the game.
Baseball and politics entwined, for one of the first times, in 1860 when Lincoln’s election was illustrated in the news as a baseball game.
The National Game. Three “Outs” And One “Run”.
As Lincoln stands victorious on “Home Base,” his opponents stand watching (left to right) John Bell, of the Constitutional Union party, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Breckinridge, a Southern Democrat.
Lincoln says to them, “Gentlemen, if any of you should ever take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have ‘a good bat’ and strike a ‘fair ball’ to make a ‘clean score’ & a ‘home run.'” Lincoln’s “good bat” is labeled “Equal Rights and Free Territory.” (If you look closely, you’ll see that the other candidates are holding baseball bats, but Lincoln’s ‘bat’ is actually a railroad tie.)
That critter in the center is, I’m assured, a skunk that represents that the other candidates have been “skunked” – or defeated – by Lincoln. (Seriously? Does that look a skunk to you?)
The pollsters must have been pretty sure about things, because that 1860 illustration was published by Currier & Ives two months before Election Day.
There has been baseball and, today, softball, on the Ellipse for more than 150 years.
Thank goodness for that.
Because, baseball can’t get here fast enough.
(Pitchers and catchers report this year on February 14. Valentine’s Day. I love that.)