While we’re on the topic of “disinformation”….
Let’s have a show of hands, shall we? How many of you think that Civil War General Abner Doubleday invented baseball? Let’s see, one…two...thirty four…wow, that’s still a lot, especially since Doubleday’s connection to the game was thoroughly debunked almost a century ago and there is no evidence that he ever claimed any credit for the development of the game. Nevertheless, a commission appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball announced in1907 that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.”
We now know—well, some of us know—that the “best evidence” was, to put it technically, crap. Abner wasn’t much of a general either.
OK, now those who have heard of “Doc” Adams ( 1814 – 1899) and know he was one of the major contributors to the invention of baseball as it is played today raise your hands. One..one? That’s all? Documents show that all Adams did—he was an early baseball player and later a league executive who oversaw writing “The Laws of Baseball”—was to establish the distance between bases at 90 feet apart, settle the length of a game at 9 innings and define a baseball team as nine players rather than eight, ten or eleven. He also invented the position of “shortstop.”
Baseball, you see, like television, had no single inventor, much as baseball historians wanted to find one. Its rules evolved quickly in a 75 year period after people started playing versions of the game in the 1830s. Adams can lay claim to being one of the primary forces in baseball’s evolution, but two men who contributed far less or nothing are recognized by baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.: Doubleday, since the very site of the Hall was based on the myth that he oversaw the first game played there, and Alexander Cartwright, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937 as “the father of baseball” on flimsy evidence and incompetent research. On his museum plaque, Cartwright is credited with establishing the baseline distances, the number of innings and the number of players on a team, none of which he had anything to do with. Those were all te work of Adams. But as the Doubleday lie began to unravel, baseball was desperate to identify its game’s “creator.”
This fiasco of historical incompetence and bias is highlighted today because it was announced that Marjorie Adams, the great-granddaughter of Daniel “Doc” Adams, died earlier this month. She had been laboring for years to get “Doc”—yes, he was a real M.D.— the recognition he deserved and to see him finally inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. She lobbied for him on a website, at conferences, at meetings of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and at vintage baseball festivals. Gradually, the message got through. On the SABR website, Doc Adams’ biography concludes, “For his role in making baseball the success it is, Doc Adams may be counted as first among the Fathers of Baseball.”
Yet Marjorie Adams died before her mission was accomplished. Doc Adams was nearly elected to the Hall when the new Pre-integration Era committee voted in December 2015. He received 10 votes, more than any other candidate but two short of the required 12. More evidence of Adams’ crucial role has emerged since then, and it is widely believed that he will finally be admitted to the Hall when the committee votes this coming December.