Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lincoln vs Douglas - in baseball?

Reading the book Baseball's First Inning: A History of the National Pastime Through the Civil War by  William J. Ryczek, I came across the following anecdote that I thought was interesting and worth sharing.

In a chapter that discusses the growth of baseball (base ball at the time) outside of the New York area, the author mentions some clubs forming in the Midwest and Chicago.

"The following year, the Clipper listed twelve Chicago clubs that played the New York game. In the tense political climate that surrounded the 1860 presidential election, the Excelsiors divided into two teams, the adherents of Abraham Lincoln on one and those of Stephen Douglas on the other. The Douglas men beat the Lincoln men, 18-16, the only battle Douglas won that year." 

The Clipper was a newspaper in New York that covered sporting events and theater, and the Excelsiors were one of the clubs that had formed in Chicago. (This excerpt was from pages 147-148.)

I had never heard that story before, but with tensions so high that summer, I guess it's not surprising such a split occurred, especially in Illinois, the home of those two Presidential candidates and long-time rivals.

It's an interesting book so far. It shows how the myth of Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball came into being and the chapter on how the coming of the war affected the still young sport has the clever title of Abner Doubleday Invents the Civil War.

If I see any more interesting tidbits about the war and this sport in the rest of the book, I'll be sure to share them. I doubt I do a review of it since it's not totally Civil War related, but I do recommend it to anyone interested in the early history of baseball. It's very enjoyable and informative.

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