Richards: Who really invented baseball? It sure wasn’t Abner Doubleday

From SABR member Lawrence Richards at The National Pastime Museum on November 8, 2017:

Allegedly, Union officer Abner Doubleday pulled the cannon lanyard, the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, which started the Civil War. Not that it isn’t noteworthy, but in reality, that’s his only first anything. His anointment as “The Father of Baseball”—still given in some isolated quarters—is fantasy, not even close to being in the ballpark.

This designation would have come as a great surprise, primarily to Doubleday himself, who never claimed he had anything to do with creating baseball. His only documented involvement consists of ordering sporting equipment 40 years after his presumed epiphany.

The first “modern game” was supposedly played in Cooperstown, New York, on June 12, 1839. For well over a century Doubleday has received credit for its organization and setting forth rules. That would have been a remarkable, even magical feat. At the time, Doubleday was a first-year, full-time cadet stationed at West Point, 155.7 miles away. The real story here is who invented the Abner Doubleday charade and how that scam was perpetuated for over a century.

It starts with Albert Graves, a Cooperstown resident. He swore he was walking along a cow pasture with the then-20-year-old Doubleday. Young Abner drew a diagram of a diamond with his walking stick and told Albert he’d devised a set of rules for a game he called baseball. Cut to 1905; the plot thickens.

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Originally published: November 8, 2017. Last Updated: November 8, 2017.