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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Testing Family Traditions: Abner Doubleday, 1757-1812

Irony defined

“Family tradition” is a source often cited in published genealogies.  This article takes an extended look at such traditions attached to one figure—Abner Doubleday (1757-1812), a revolutionary soldier of Connecticut and New York—and at documentary and printed research, some of which contradicts or adds to old family stories. ...

A second Abner Doubleday (1819-1893), son of congressman Ulysses Freeman Doubleday and Hester Donnelly, and grandson of the Abner herein, is generally considered a founder of American baseball.  See Dictionary of American Biography, vol. V (1930) p . 391-92; National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. K (1895), pp 140-41

Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 15, 2014 at 08:38 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 15, 2014 at 11:44 AM (#4707414)
I found this page a couple of years back when I used to drive back and forth from Manchester, CT to Mystic and would come across a Doubleday Road in Columbia, CT. It is likely that the road was named after Abner's family. Back in those days, Columbia was part of Lebanon.
   2. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: May 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4707484)
I'm kind of bizarrely fascinated by the Abner Doubleday invented baseball myth. I mean MLB set up a commission to study the origins of baseball, they actually interviewed many many people, went through old newspapers, etc., and then literally threw all of it out, picked a random name* out of a book on prominent Americans, and made up a wholly fictitious story...

What they did was have an old senile anti-British nutjob (yes there were such people in America) write a letter to the Sporting News claiming to have seen Abner Doubleday invent baseball in his (the nutjob's) hometown of Cooperstown in 1839- Of course the old nut job had been 5 years old in 1839 and Doubleday a 1st year cadet at West Point... (Plus Doubleday had relatives who lived in Cooperstown, he never did)

So this commission researched baseball for 2+ years, and announced that Abner Doubleday and invented baseball in some farmer's field in Cooperstown NY in 1839- based ENTIRELY on two letters an old institutionalized coot wrote to the Sporting News right after the Commission was established.


*Or not so random, one of the Commission's members, Spalding, had actually known Doubleday- but curiously Spalding said absolutely nothing about anything Doubleday may or may not have told him about inventing baseball
   3. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 15, 2014 at 01:34 PM (#4707522)
I like the myth, but I am surprised that more adults believe in Abner Doubleday than believe in Santa.

FWIW, if I had to choose a desert island baseball book, David Block's Baseball Before We Knew It. is in the top 5.
   4. Publius Publicola Posted: May 15, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4707553)
is generally considered a founder of American baseball.


I was about to jump all over this when I stopped and realized, alas, it's probably true.
   5. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 15, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4707566)
I did some Googling a while back. This guy Rockstroh was a retired USAF officer and a descendant of Doubleday. He really believed that Abner was baseball's inventor and was going to write a book. But he died several years ago. I can sort of understand how he felt. For years, family legend had it that one of my greatgrandfathers was a Roughrider, until I did further research and found out that he was in the National Guard during the SpanAm war and din't get further south than Georgia.

That said, the true story of Doubleday during the Civil War is pretty good anyways. WHy embellish it?
   6. Ron J2 Posted: May 15, 2014 at 02:17 PM (#4707568)
#2 Also worth noting that Doubleday never mentioned inventing baseball in his diaries. Which run like 30 volumes iirc.
   7. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 15, 2014 at 03:43 PM (#4707658)
The funny thing is that Abner might have been aware of the game. His father lived in New Lebanon, NY and that town was right over the border from Pittsfield, MA (Although I suspect it was militia members occupying Pittsfield during Shays's Rebellion who were playing games, not native Pittsfielders.) Also, his father was friends with Thurlow Weed who did play ballgames in his native Rochester, NY.
   8. RMc and the slumping crisp Posted: May 15, 2014 at 03:45 PM (#4707663)
As I've said before, it's like claiming Norman Schwarzkopf invented arena football.
   9. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: May 16, 2014 at 11:16 AM (#4708096)
RMc, that's funny, but it would be more accurate if Gus Pagonis was thought of as the father of arena football. It wasn't like Spalding claimed Grant or Sherman invented baseball.

   10. BDC Posted: May 16, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4708104)
the true story of Doubleday during the Civil War is pretty good

Indeed. Serving at both Fort Sumter and Cemetery Ridge … I'm surprised Doubleday wasn't at Appomattox too. But his service later in the war was in Washington – where he undoubtedly knew Lew Wallace :)
   11. An Athletic in Powderhorn™ Posted: May 16, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4708112)
I used to be baffled by the choice of Doubleday as baseball's founder. It suddenly made much more sense when I learned that the commission's purpose wasn't to find the origin of baseball, it was to find that the origin of baseball was American.

I imagine that anyone who would read a thread like this has already read it, but I'll take this thread as an excuse to link to one of my favorite bits of baseball writing: a Stephen Jay Gould piece about the Doubleday myth and the Cardiff Giant.
   12. Ron J2 Posted: May 16, 2014 at 11:47 AM (#4708123)
#10 Doubleday had been relieved of command at Gettysburg (senior division commander in the 1st corps, took over after Reynolds went down). Basically Howard blamed him for the rout of the 11th corps and Meade seems to have sided with Howard.

After the battle he asked Meade to reinstate him to command of the corp (since he was senior to Newton). Meade refused. Doubleday asked to be relieved and was.

Doubleday actually did a pretty damned good job while in command of the 1st corps. Meade seems to have disliked Doubleday going back at least as far as Fredericksburg. Of course that didn't make Doubleday unusual. Meade didn't like a lot of people.

   13. DanG Posted: May 16, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4708167)
Meade didn't like a lot of people.
But a lot of people like mead!

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