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Friday, April 03, 2020

Today in Baseball History: A lie about how baseball was invented is born

Until not too terribly long ago, if you asked most people about the origins of baseball, they’d say “a man named Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.” They’d say that because, until not too long ago, there was a sign there, right next to the Hall of Fame, saying so. Somewhere around here I have a photo of my brother and I posing next to it from, like, 1983 or something.

That sign — and the underlying belief it espouses — is the product of one baseball’s bigger lies. “The Doubleday Myth,” as it has finally come to be known, about the game’s origin. A myth that was officially put out into the world on this date in 1908 when something called the Mills Commission released a report to that effect, erroneously establishing a baseball creation story that would stick in the public’s consciousness for nearly a century. A report the Mills Commission knew to be false to begin with.

To understand how such a report could be released, one has to understand the ethnic/racial dynamics of the sport in its infancy.

Baseball had been played pretty widely from the 1840s on, became semi-professionalized and then professionalized in the 1860s and 1870s, and was truly becoming the national pastime in the two decades after that. As the game grew in popularity, so too did the number of immigrants playing it. Irish immigrants, mostly. At the same time there was considerable — and quite accurate — sentiment that baseball had evolved from the English game rounders, which is primarily played by school-aged children.

Or, the story of how a mentally-ill mining engineer and a sporting-goods dealer with an agenda damaged serious research into baseball for decades.

 

QLE Posted: April 03, 2020 at 12:59 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: abner doubleday, big fat lie, history, origins

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. The Duke Posted: April 03, 2020 at 12:03 PM (#5936201)
As Mike Shannon says after some curious play “Ol Abner’s done it again!”

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