Who invented baseball?

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!)


Posted on Thu Nov 06, 2008


There were also African-Americans playing professional baseball (although it was more semi-pro) in the 19th century. Some teams only used their African-American players at home though. It's funny sometimes I correctly see Jackie Robinson referred to as the first African-American player of the 20th century.
Posted by floormaster squeeze  on  Thu Nov 06, 2008  at  03:32 PM
1. Abner Graves chose Doubleday as the inventor of baseball because Doubleday was the most notable citizen of his town, having been a decorated Union general in the Civil War. There's no evidence that Doubleday ever even played baseball, much less invented it. But if you're starting a myth, a dead war hero as protagonist is a great way to get it going.

2. Spalding's stake in the issue was due to his role as an 1860s professional baseball pioneer, and his ownership of the nation's largest sporting goods business.

3. Nobody has believed the Graves story for a very long time, not even the Hall of Fame. The references to baseball in Jane Austen and in a late 18th-century children's sports book, as well as the 1792 Pittsfield, Mass. anti-baseball law, have been well known for decades.

4. It's generally acknowledged that cricket and baseball originated from the same primitive English bat and ball game, and the two developed independently on opposite sides of the ocean.

5. The real father of American baseball was Alexander Cartwright, who in 1845 codified the unofficial rules that had previously been used, and organized the first baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers.
Posted by Juancho  in  Barcelona  on  Sun Nov 09, 2008  at  08:24 AM
Baseball is very similar to the older game of rounders, which is thought to have originated in England (according to wikipedia).
Posted by Jules  in  UK  on  Fri Nov 14, 2008  at  07:05 AM
Reminds me of how America tried to take credit for inventing Basketball too. Amazing....
Posted by J  on  Wed Dec 31, 2008  at  03:55 AM
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