Baseball, also known as the Presidents' Game, is an American trademark. Every American President from George Washington on has had some link with baseball or baseball under one of its earlier names. Not all of them liked the game, a couple of them even disliked it, but for more than a century they have jumped at the opportunity to associate themselves with what has come to be known as the "national pastime." They savored the political benefits while recognizing the political costs might they risk to ignore baseball and its millions of fans.
The game played at Valley Forge by Washington's troops called "rounders" was a previous version of baseball, and the game played by John Adams as a boy called "one old cat." Abraham Lincoln played a different type of baseball in Illinois as well as in Washington. All these games involved a ball pitched by one player and hit by another, who ran to or around bases while the pitcher's teammates tried to catch the ball and put the batter out.
Some may have been closer to cricket than to baseball, as we know the game today.
By 1857, some Americans were already beginning to call baseball the national pastime. During the Civil War baseball was played in army troops on both sides. But it wasn't until after the war that baseball truly became what President Andrew Johnson called "the national game" -- the most widely played sport in America. Baseball grew so popular that it was not until well after World War II that any other professional team sport came even close to matching it in terms of a mass following.
The national pastime is something presidents of the United States like to publicly embrace, and baseball is always eager to hug back. Nowadays world champions and...