Jan 26, 1873: Doubleday dies, myth lives
Submitted by BTGrimes on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 10:00am
Man Behind the Myth
BALLSTON SPA, NEW YORK - Abner Doubleday died on this date in 1893. You know, the guy who didn't invent baseball. His name is so tied to the game however, I'd be remiss not to tell his story on a baseball website.
Doubleday was rather extraordinary. He was born near Albany in upstate New York, spent more than thirty years in the military, achieving the rank of general for the Union in the Civil War. He reportedly fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter - the battle that started the War between the States.
The story goes that Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839. The only evidence to support this is the word of a man named Abner Graves who was described as being of questionable integrity. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Doubleday did not invent the game. For example, while Cooperstown was home at one time, he was a cadet at West Point in 1839, so if he was drawing up rules for how to play Base Ball he was doing it while AWOL. Also, Doubleday never claimed, wrote or uttered that he invented the game.
So how did the story come about? Baseball historian Harold Seymour wrote in Baseball: The Early Years that around the turn of the 19th century Abraham Mills, the fourth president of the National League, "wanted it distinctly understood that patriotism and research had established that the game of baseball was American in its origin," and not a descendant of the English game rounders. A committee Mills chaired officially "concluded" as much in 1907. The story was promulgated to such an extent that a shrine to the game of baseball was built in Cooperstown - the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the ballpark adjacent to the Hall is called Doubleday Field.
General Abner Doubleday accomplished a lot in his life. Oddly what he's most remembered for he had nothing to do with.
[Photo from the public domain via britannica.com ]
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