Hershberger: Guys who didn’t invent baseball: Abner Doubleday

From SABR member Richard Hershberger at Ordinary Times on April 14, 2016:

In Part I of the Guys Who Didn’t Invent Baseball series, I discussed how in the mid 19th century the idea that baseball began as an English game was uncontroversial, even if the exact relationship between it and rounders was a bit unclear; and how by the turn of the 20th century this was ideologically unacceptable. Albert Spalding put out a call for a commission to determine once and for all the origin of baseball: to uncover the American boy genius responsible for the glory that is baseball. Here in Part II, I will show how they arrived at the official conclusion that Abner Doubleday was this boy genius.

The commission was duly constituted in 1905 under the chairmanship of Abraham G. Mills. (It is sometimes called the Spalding Commission, since Spalding proposed it, but more usually it is called the Mills Commission, after its chairman.) The final report was issued three years later.

The important thing to understand about this whole affair is that the fix was in. I don’t mean the specific conclusion was predetermined. Some modern writers have hinted at this, but I don’t think this matches the evidence. What I mean is that the range of permissible conclusions was constrained, with the rounders origin conspicuously outside this range. This comes through in two ways: the membership of the commission and its research methodology.

Read the full article here: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2016/04/14/guys-who-didnt-invent-baseball-part-ii-abner-doubleday/

Originally published: April 14, 2016. Last Updated: April 14, 2016.