(or The Doubleday Myth)
Motivated by writer Henry Chadwick’s 1903 article
stating that baseball had its origins in games such as
Rounders and the English game Cricket, sporting goods
manufacturer (and former baseball pitching great)
Albert Spaulding established a commission to prove
an American ancestry to the game. Basing its findings
simply on a letter sent by a retired Denver miner named
Abner Graves, the commission, headed by Spaulding’s
friend Abraham Mills, declared in 1907 that Civil War
hero General Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in
Graves’ letter stated that he had witnessed Doubleday
teaching the game to a number of boys that summer in
Cooperstown, New York. However, later research showed
that the 19 year old Doubleday was in his sophomore year
at West Point in 1839 and probably did not have a summer
Graves’ letter detailed the rules he saw being "taught"
by Doubleday, but some of those were not introduced
into the game until the later 1800s. Also, the Mills’
Commission ignored Graves’ statements that Doubleday’s
game permitted hitting the runner with a ball to put him
out, changing the quoted text to state that Doubleday
eliminated that practice.
General Doubleday kept extensive diaries throughout his life and he was a noted speaker, but he never
said or wrote anything about having visited Cooperstown, and never mentioned the game of baseball in
any of his writings or talks (except for a requisition for, "...baseball implements for the amusement of
the men..." while he commanded the 24th U. S. Infantry at Fort McKavett in Texas in June of 1871). And
he certainly never took credit for inventing the game. General Doubleday passed away in 1893, over a
decade before he or anyone else would hear that he had been named as the originator of baseball.
It is possible that young Graves had witnessed some kind of ball game being played, since a number of
similar games were being played at the time, including Rounders and Town ball, but it wasn’t Baseball.
There is even some research that has been published recently showing that there might have, in fact,
been some Doubledays living in the Cooperstown area who seem to have been relatives of Abner
Doubleday, and they might have even played baseball in the area, though likely not as early as 1839.
This might have contributed to Mr. Graves' confusion.
By the mid 1930s, enough testimony and evidence had been brought forth to establish that baseball did
in fact have some of its origins in Rounders and other older games, and that in 1845, Alexander Joy
Cartwright Jr. appeared to have penned the first formal set of rules of the game that was to become the
National Pastime. Being noted for originating the game as we know it, Mr. Cartwright was enshrined in
the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938. However, even more recent research indicates that the Cartwright
and the Knickerbockers might have based some of their "new" rules on some of those being tried out by
other local clubs.
Regardless whether the game was created or evolved into the modern game, the Hall now
acknowledges that there is little evidence of General (Cadet) Doubleday’s contribution to the game.
|Please do not be confused. This
picture was created as a joke for this
article. General Doubleday is not
known to have ever even played