Thursday, July 24, 2008

Abner Doubleday 1989 Baseball wit Card

Did he or did he not?

The Abner Doubleday legend/myth
Abner Doubleday
The story that
Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 was once widely promoted and widely believed. There was and is no evidence for this claim, except for the testimony of one man decades after the fact, and there is more persuasive counter-evidence. Doubleday left many letters and papers, but they contain no description of baseball or even a suggestion that he considered himself a prominent person in the history of the game. His New York Times obituary makes no mention of baseball at all, nor does an encyclopedia article about Doubleday published in 1911. Contrary to popular belief, Doubleday has never been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although a large oil portrait of him was on display at the Hall of Fame building for many years.
The legend of Doubleday’s invention of baseball was itself baseball's invention, in a sense that of
Al Spalding, a former star pitcher, then club executive, who had become the leading American sporting goods entrepreneur and sports publisher. Debate on baseball origins had raged for decades, heating up in the first years of the 20th century. To end argument, speculation and innuendo, Spalding organized a panel in 1905. The panelists were his friend Abraham G. Mills, a former National League president; two United States Senators, ex-NL president Morgan Bulkeley and ex-Washington club president Arthur Gorman; ex-NL president and lifelong secretary-treasurer Nick Young; two other star players turned sporting goods entrepreneurs (George Wright and Alfred Reach); and AAU president James E. Sullivan. The final report published in 1908 included three sections: a summary of the panel’s findings written by Mills, a letter by John Montgomery Ward supporting the panel, and a dissenting opinion by Henry Chadwick. The research methods were, at best, dubious. The Mills Commission probably looked for and found the perfect story: baseball was invented in a quaint rural town without foreigners or industry, by a young man who later graduated from West Point and served heroically in the Mexican-American War, Civil War, and U.S. wars against Indians.
The Mills Commission concluded that baseball had been invented by Doubleday in
Cooperstown, New York in 1839; that Doubleday had invented the word "baseball", designed the diamond, indicated fielder positions, written down the rules and the field regulations. However, no written records from 1839 or the 1840s have ever been found to corroborate these claims; nor could Doubleday be interviewed for he had died in 1893. The principal source for the story was a letter from elderly Abner Graves, a five-year-old resident of Cooperstown in 1839. But Graves never mentioned a diamond, positions or the writing of rules. Graves' reliability as a witness has also been questioned because he was later convicted of murdering his wife and spent his final days in an asylum for the criminally insane. Further, Doubleday was not in Cooperstown in 1839. Doubleday may never have even visited Cooperstown. He was enrolled at West Point and there is no record of any leave time. Mills, a lifelong friend of Doubleday, had never heard him mention inventing baseball.
As noted previously, versions of baseball rules have since been found in publications that significantly predate the alleged invention in 1839.
Jeff Idelson of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York has stated, "Baseball wasn't really born anywhere," meaning that the evolution of the game was long and continuous and has no clear, identifiable single origin.


--David said...

I've done several video conferences with the BBHOF for providing educational to students and teachers. The one on the geographic flow of baseball included the same story (not verbatim, of course, but the history) of Doubleday. It was a great educational experience, as many of the teachers still thought of Doubleday as the 'father of baseball' until the conference.

Bart McClaughry said...

Thanks David