Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ballroom C (Hynes Convention Center)
American Presidents have long had an important role for the national pastime, even Abraham Lincoln. But the real Abraham Lincoln has a tenuous connection to baseball. The evidence that the sixteenth President ever played or watched the national pastime is, at best, thin. The mythical Abraham Lincoln is a different story. In the late nineteenth century, when baseball exploded onto the national scene, the story of the national pastime included Abraham Lincoln either playing or watching baseball. Sporting magnate and player Albert Spalding's America's National Game included a tale of Lincoln playing the game when he learned of his nomination for President. Lincoln's connection to the game propelled its popularity. It also legitimized the game at a time when detractors where concerned about the drinking, gambling, and cursing and associated with the game. Lincoln's possible baseball experience also strengthened baseball's Civil War provenance. The Mills' Commission certified that Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general, invented baseball. The Commission was biased and used dubious evidence. Nevertheless, their conclusion gave baseball a martial, heroic, and glorious background. Lincoln, martyred after the war, gave baseball an even stronger connection to the glory and heroism of the Civil War. This poster will examine the sources that portray Lincoln playing baseball. It will also determine what effect that these tales had on baseball's ascension to its place as the national pastime.