It’s been a while since I’ve been able to actually sit down and write about this, but I’m finally making the time.
The weather has been killing us. Typical of baseball sometimes, the weather has forced us to postpone a few classes. Our second week was finally held last Wednesday but some things have gotten in the way. This week, we had to postpone another week.
Day 2 of Baseball and the American Tradition was all about the origins of the game of baseball.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839. As far as many of us know, that is the story of how baseball was born.
However, there is far more to it than that story.
The British game of Rounders was similar to baseball. Played on a diamond-shaped field with bases, a feeder would pitch the ball to the striker. If the ball was caught out of the air or hit foul, the striker was out. Runners were put out by being struck by the ball.
This was the beginning of modern baseball. Immigrants evolved the sport into the game we know today. Obviously, the sport continues to evolve by the year with changes to the strike zone, instant replay and more.
Now it is believed that Abner Doubleday created baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y. and that the first game ever played happened on June 12, 1839. That is why the Baseball Hall of Fame and Doubleday Field mark the “birthplace of baseball” in Cooperstown.
But what if the whole story was actually a myth? That’s actually the case.
The story they claim to tell you in Cooperstown, the one with Abner Doubleday, is a myth.
Here’s the real story.
What people believe is that Abner Doubleday organized the first baseball game in the United States on June 12, 1839. In 1905, the Akron Beacon Journal ran a story claiming an eyewitness had recorded the event, marking the first publishing of the event.
The claim came from Abner Graves, who said he saw Doubleday’s diagrams of a baseball field. Graves was able to match the diagram’s drawing at the request of Chicago Cubs president Albert Spaulding. Graves also wrote a letter to Spaulding stating that the original diagram had not been preserved and most of the players from that time had died. Spaulding accepted the evidence and officially credited Doubleday with the invention of baseball.
However, the story has some flaws that cause critics to question the myth. For starters, Graves was just five years old in 1839. Doubleday was never in Cooperstown in 1839. He was in West Point at the United States Military Academy.
Ironically, the supposed inventor of the game is not in the Hall of Fame. Doubleday is not immortalized in Cooperstown. But Alexander Cartwright is. His son, Bruce, questioned the Doubleday myth, saying his father should be credited with the invention of baseball as he established one of the first teams in the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.
So the legend of the origin of baseball is still a legend. Bud Selig, baseball’s current Commissioner, has said he truly believes Doubleday is the “Father of Baseball.” However, the Hall of Fame released a statement less than a year ago in conjunction with its 75th anniversary of opening, stating that the Hall opened its doors on June 12, 1939, “in honor of the 100th anniversary of the mythical ‘first game’ that allegedly was played in Cooperstown on June 12, 1839.”