How Sloppy (Or Dishonest) Historical Research Can Deceive For Decades: The Daniel “Doc” Adams Affair

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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.”

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