Past Time: Baseball as History

By Jules Tygiel | Go to book overview

The National Game

Reflections on the Rise
of Baseball in the 1850s and 1860s

In November 1860 popular lithographers Currier & Ives depicted the results of the most significant presidential election in the nation's history in a most unusual fashion. The firm issued a print featuring the four leading contenders for the presidency—Unionist John Bell, northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, southern Democrat John Breckinridge, and Republican Abraham Lincoln— as baseball players. The three losing candidates each held baseball bats emblazoned with their political positions—"fusion," "non‐ intervention," and "slavery extension." Lincoln, holding a ball, his right foot planted firmly on "home base," fittingly held a long rail, labeled "equal rights and free territory." Each of the men discussed the outcome of the election using baseball jargon. Bell wondered "why we three should strike 'foul' and be 'put out.' " Douglas muses, "I thought our fusion would be a 'short stop' to his career." Breckinridge, shown slinking back to Kentucky with his fingers sealing his nostrils, complains "that we are completely 'skunk'd,' " a popular term for a rout or shutout. Lincoln warns his defeated opponents that should they choose to challenge him again, "You

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