June 6, 1892 – Benjamin Harrison Becomes First Sitting U.S. President to Attend a Major-League Baseball Game

Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States, serving from 1889 to 1893. His grandfather, war hero William Henry Harrison, was the ninth president.

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin was born in Ohio as one of thirteen children. At college, he distinguished himself in debating, which motivated him to pursue a career in law. He passed the bar in 1854, moved to Indianapolis, and went into a partnership with the governor’s son. Before long, Harrison got involved in the Republican party, and won the position of city attorney of Indianapolis in 1857. Harrison served in the Civil War, and was considered a “war hero” although he didn’t see much fighting.

He also had a reputation for probity in an era when this enabled him to stand out, and eventually made it to the presidency thanks to some “fake news” that was spread about Grover Cleveland (as recounted by history professor Catherine Clinton in To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents.)

Harrison himself attributed his victory to “divine intervention.”

Once in office, as Professor Clinton writes, Harrison “simply followed the lead of the party bosses who’d manufactured his election.” He never shed his “stodgy public image” but he did make one decidedly un-stodgy move, when on this date in history, he attended a baseball game in Washington, D.C.

Stephen V. Rice, writing for the Society for American Baseball Research, reports that Harrison explained in 1889:

‘I used to go to a game in Indianapolis once in a while, and also in Chicago, and I always enjoyed it . . .I find a good deal of pleasure in watching a good game of ball.’”

The game he attended was between the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators, and was played at Boundary Field, two miles from the White House.

Rice describes the scene:

Harrison arrived at the ballpark in a stately horse-drawn carriage and was seated prominently in the first row of the press box, above the grandstand. He wore a large black derby, a frock coat, a white shirt and a black necktie. One hand rested on an ornamental cane. The ballplayers gazed up at him from the field, and the 2,400 fans were abuzz over the distinguished visitor.”

The final score was Cincinnati 7, Washington 4. Harrison left the game early, however. He was preoccupied, Rice reports, with the Republican National Convention, which was taking place over the next four days in Minneapolis. Harrison received his party’s nomination to run for a second term, but he lost the election in the fall to his predecessor, Democrat Grover Cleveland, the 22nd President of the U.S. and then also the 24th.

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