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Abe Lincoln, baseball pioneer?

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You may know Abraham Lincoln, 16th president/abolisher of slavery/vampire hunter, but did you know about his connection to baseball?

According to many accounts, Lincoln was an avid townball/barn ball player -- games often referred to as precursors to baseball. He apparently skipped cabinet meetings to play on the White House lawn and impressed with his athletic abilities:

"We boys hailed [Lincoln's] coming with delight because he would always join us on the lawn [for townball]," a friend's son once recalled. "I remember vividly how he ran, how long were his strides, how his coattails stuck out behind."

And from law friend J.H. Littlefield:

"As a relaxation from professional cares he would go out and play ball. The game was what was called barn ball, and it consisted of knocking the ball against the side of a building and then hitting it again on the rebound. I have seen Mr. Lincoln go into this sport with a great deal of zest."

Honest Abe also routinely attended semi-pro games in D.C. and saw his fandom shine through in political cartoons.

Along with doing his personal best to promote the sport, Lincoln's presidency (1861-'65) coincided with baseball's national boom. Civil War exhibitions helped to expand the game all along the East Coast and the National Association of Base Ball Players (the first organization to govern American baseball) increased from just under 20 members to well over 100 by the time of Lincoln's assassination.

Happy Presidents Day, Abe. We hope to see you showing off some of that coattail-striding excellence this season:

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