Debating Baseball’s Origins Spills Into Another Century

From John Thorn at The New York Times on March 13:

Moving beyond the binary and false options of Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright Jr. as the father of baseball, three better candidates emerge: Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth. Cartwright’s plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame declares he set the bases 90 feet apart and established nine innings as a game and nine players as a team. He did none of these things, and every other word of substance on his plaque is false.

Adams, known as Doc, set the base paths at 90 feet, among other notable innovations, including creating the position of shortstop — eight years after Cartwright left New York in the California gold rush of 1849. Wheaton created the Knickerbocker rules by copying a set he had drawn up for an earlier ball club, the Gothams, in 1837.

As to nine men and nine innings — and perhaps even more — these may be credited to Wadsworth. A first baseman for the Gothams and the Knickerbockers from about 1850 to 1862, the mysterious Wadsworth may provide the most compelling story of all.

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Originally published: March 12, 2011. Last Updated: March 12, 2011.