The most well-promoted story about the invention of baseball is that Abner Doubleday invented it in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. This story was given the official stamp of approval in 1907 by Albert Spalding, who was head of a Special Baseball Commission established by President McKinley, charged with determining the true origin of the game. This is the reason the Baseball Hall of Fame
is in Cooperstown.
In Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please?
(published in Great Britain this month) Julian Norridge argues for the British origin of baseball, pointing out that British references to baseball can be found as far back as 1755, and that even Jane Austen mentioned the game
40 years before its "official" invention in America.
Actually the Doubleday story about the invention of baseball has long been considered incorrect by historians. Even the Baseball Hall of Fame admits that it's dubious. Spalding was desperate that baseball have an American origin and therefore gave credence to a statement submitted by an old man named Abner Graves, who remembered Doubleday inventing the game in Cooperstown in 1839 -- even though Doubleday was living in West Point in 1839, not Cooperstown.
Cooperstown might be a good location for a real Museum of Hoaxes. It's in a nice location. The town itself owes its fame to Spalding's hoax. Plus, the Cardiff Giant is housed there at the Farmer's Museum
. (Thanks, Joe!)