Focus on Fostoria - Jan0905

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Charles Foster's turn at Bat
Jan.9, 2005
Focus Correspondent

Record snow, sub-zero temperatures and rain. They can only mean one thing.

It’s time to talk baseball.

Specifically, it’s time to talk baseball and Charles Foster, especially since 2004, Fostoria’s sesquicentennial year and the 100th anniversary of Foster’s death, has just passed.

We’ve run a couple articles on Foster’s interest in baseball, recounting his playing days on a Fostoria team called the Morning Glorys and his friendship with William “Dummy” Hoy, the accomplished Washington Senator outfielder. Foster became friends with several Washington ballplayers when he served as Treasury Secretary for President Benjamin Harrison.

However, there’s always more to discover where Foster and baseball are concerned. I’ve been busily chipping away at both.

For instance, I was nosing through a copy of Reach’s Official 1893 Base Ball Guide. The Reach Guides were published from 1883 until the early 1900s.

The A.J. Reach Co. was a sporting goods firm founded by 1860s baseball star Al Reach. The Guides contained the coming year’s schedule, playing rules, the previous season’s records, stuff like that.
They also had articles covering a variety of subjects. I ran across one titled “Base Ball In Politics.” As soon as I saw President Harrison’s name, I continued reading hoping to find Foster in there and sure enough, there he was.

The article reads in part: “Ex-President Harrison is a great lover of base ball ... After he became President he frequently visited the ball park at Washington, and enjoyed the sport as much as the most humble citizen. At least two of his cabinet officers, Foster and Rusk, were also ‘cranks,’ (fans) and were in the habit of accompanying him to the game. The distinguished three ... were at the Cincinnati-Washington game on one of the days last summer while the National Republican Convention was in session at Minneapolis and when Mr. Harrison’s fate concerning a nomination for a second term hung in the balance. Yet on this occasion he became very much interested in the ball game, and frequently entered into disputes with his Secretary of the Treasury over some point in the play.”

It’s nice to know that Fostoria’s own Charles Foster and the President of the United States enjoyed themselves one day 103 years ago arguing about a baseball game.

The game referred to wasn’t just any game. It took place June 6, 1892, and is considered by some to be the first major league game attended by a President.

The Washington Post of June 7, 1892, carries a detailed account of how Foster got Harrison to attend the game. Foster’s interest in baseball was well-known to the Post’s readers.

More than a year earlier, on May 20, 1891, the Post reported that “President Harrison is losing no opportunity to make his administration popular with all classes. Secretary Foster would rather miss a cabinet meeting than a baseball game.”

Five days later, the paper jokingly told the public, “Secretary Foster is a great baseball enthusiast, but he is signed with the administration until March 4, 1893.”

On July 30, 1891, Washington beat Philadelphia, 11-5, and the next day’s Post took due note of the fact that “Secretary Foster was an interested spectator at the game.”

The Rusk mentioned in the Reach Guide article was Agriculture Secretary Jeremiah Rusk. On Feb. 7, 1892, the Post ran an article on the Senators’ prospects for the new season.

Rusk noted the Senators had some new players and said, “Secretary Foster and I are the administration baseball cranks, and we like to see the local club win a fair share of games. It was tiresome last year to go out day after day and watch the Washingtons meet with defeat. But the shoe will be on the other foot this season.”

Sadly, the shoe stayed on the same foot. Washington finished 10th in the 12-team National League.
Anyhow, back to June 6, 1892. Harrison’s wife, Caroline, was ill and the President spent part of the morning with her.

Later, Foster came by, thinking to get the President out for some recreation, and asked Harrison if he wanted to see the ball game. At first, Harrison was undecided, but Foster was persisted. Finally, the Post said “the President yielded to the persuasion of Secretary Foster ....”

Foster arranged for a carriage and then waited for Harrison on “the big stone porch of the White House.” Harrison must have had some details to attend to (like running the country, for instance) because Foster became impatient waiting for him.

Foster paced along the porch, frequently looking at his watch. He didn’t want to miss the first pitch.
It was a warm day and Foster “cooled himself by fanning his brow with his straw hat.” He also chatted politics with the Post reporter.

Foster and Harrison joined 1,925 other fans and watched Cincinnati best Washington, 7-4. The game lasted 11 innings. Harrison left after six because he had a meeting with Secretary of War Stephen Elkins.

Foster and Rusk stayed for the whole game. The Post said, “Secretaries Foster and Rusk shouted like old time fans.”

It’s like the old Chicago Cub announcer Harry Caray used to say. “There’s nothing like fun at the old ballpark


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