Grant & Baseball


On May 1, 1883, 15,000 fans filed into the original Polo Grounds at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City for an opening day baseball game. Among them was the former president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant, in a photograph circa 1880, attended the first National League game of the franchise that would become known as the New York Giants.

The story of Grant and baseball can be considered in various ways. There is their shared context. The emergence of Grant coincided with that of baseball, and both with the explosive growth of the United States as it made its way toward being an urbanized nation and a world power.

During Grantís lifetime, the leisure activity of baseball evolved from a boyís game, to a leisure activity of gentlemenís clubs, all the way to big leagues and big commerce. Baseballís rules, standards, and positions were codified, refined, and specialized, and the sport was commercialized. Similar processes were accelerating throughout American industry and culture. In this sense, baseball can be seen as a reflection of the accelerating industrial, urban evolution of the United States itself, as many observers have noted. It was a process that Grantís victories in the Civil War helped to set in motion.

Paradoxically, Grant watched a segregated ball game on that day in 1883. The National Association of Base Ball Players in 1868 excluded ďcolored personsĒ from the sport, although some participated in 1878 and in 1884. Segregation would continue in the major leagues until 1947.

Fast Facts:
Baseball & Presidents


According to the Baseball, President Abraham Lincoln played baseball with kids on the White House grounds, and had a baseball field constructed there.


Grantís immediate predecessor, Andrew Johnson, was a particular baseball enthusiast while president. He attended local games of the original Washington Nationals, and welcomed that team and the Brooklyn Atlantics to the Executive Mansion on August 30, 1865.


The Baseball Almanac describes this as the first visit of organized (not openly professional) baseball clubs to the Executive Mansion.

In April 1883, President Chester A. Arthur became the first president to welcome a major league team, the Cleveland Blues (National League), to the Executive Mansion.


In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to attend a major league game.


<< Grant & Baseball >>
Personal Encounters President Grant and the Sport The Original Polo Grounds
Personalities Grant at the Game Selected Bibliography