“We are pretty much certain that Abner Doubleday is not the inventor of baseball,” the man sitting next to me said.
I had just met Tim Wiles at the Doubleday Café in Cooperstown. I had stopped in for one beer before turning in after a full day of visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame several years ago.
Tim was sitting next to another person, and when his friend left I introduced myself. Tim told me he was Director of Research at the museum, and since it was my first visit I was completely fascinated to have met someone who had “all the answers”.
As I recollect, I did not stop at one beer.
That’s when I first heard that Abner Doubleday was nowhere near Phinney’s farm, that he was actually enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1839, the year that Cadet Doubleday supposedly laid out the field and devised the first rules of early baseball.
In a recent Bryant Curtis article published on the internet website Grantland.com (Septemer 18, 2013 – In Search of Baseball’s Holy Grail, How one man is rewriting the history of the game — one diary at a time), Curtis writes about David Block, a curious researcher and author who wrote Baseball Before We Knew It.
Block has determined that baseball (spelled “base-ball” in the early days) was played as early as the 18th century, and actually predates the game of “rounders” that was popular in England but was considered to be the original game from which base-ball came. Block cites publications from 1744, 1747, and 1755 to prove it.
I would have to agree with him, but from only one paragraph I read myself in another publication. Although I neither have the energy, resources nor will to research as Block has, I did come across one interesting reference in a book I recently finished.
“Much of the power of Washington’s presence derived from his fluid gait, the antithesis of the stiff, wooden image Gilbert Stuart grafted on the American imagination. The quintessential man of action, he moved like a national icon long before he became one. The sculptor William Rush recalled his smooth, unruffled movements: “I have been in battle immediately under his command. I have viewed him walking, standing, sitting. I have seen him at a game of ball for several hours,” and in all these activities he exhibited “the most manly and graceful attitudes I ever saw.”
(Excerpt From: Chernow, Ron. “Washington.” PENGUIN group, 2011-10-21. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.)
This discovery begs the question: Reckon the father of our country used a cherry-tree bat?
Note: Tim Wiles recently announced he was leaving the Hall of Fame & Museum and moving to a library position in a new city. His kind demeanor and friendliness to me is most certainly appreciated.