Historically Inaccurate Historical Markers

>> Thursday, May 1, 2008

Editor Liz sends this photograph of a New York State historical marker that perpetuates the myth that Abner Doubleday "founded" baseball. There is no proof that Abner Doubleday ever picked up a baseball in his life, much less that he invented the game. Alexander Cartwright is generally acknowledged as the "father of baseball" now because he and his Knickerbocker Baseball Club of Manhattan were the first to codify the modern rules of baseball, but to say that anyone invented the game is to ignore the many, many ball game antecedents played for decades before the Knickerbockers were founded.

The Doubleday myth was created by Abner Graves and Albert G. Spalding in an effort to prove that baseball was an "All-American" game, and accepted by Major League Baseball without much in-depth inquiry. The myth was compounded when MLB chose Cooperstown, the town where Doubleday allegedly created baseball, as the site for their Hall of Fame in 1939--the supposed one hundred year anniversary of Doubleday's "invention"--and promulgated the error in marketing and promotion materials.

I do my best to dispute the Doubleday myth in my forthcoming middle grade novel, The Brooklyn Nine.

There's a good summary of the Doubleday myth at Wikipedia.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  August 13, 2008 at 11:01 PM  

I am writing a book on Abner Doubleday and you post below is laden with errors.
tombart0@yahoo.com
"The Doubleday myth was created by Robert Graves and Albert G. Spalding in an effort to prove that baseball was an "All-American" game, and accepted by Major League Baseball without much in-depth inquiry. The myth was compounded when MLB chose Doubleday's hometown, Cooperstown, as the site for their Hall of Fame in 1939--the supposed one hundred year anniversary of Doubleday's "invention"--and repeated in marketing and promotion materials."

Alan August 14, 2008 at 10:47 AM  

Tom (the above poster) points out to me via e-mail that I had Mr. Grave's first name wrong--it's Abner. (And I've since made the correction.) He also tells me that Abner Doubleday never lived in Cooperstown--his father did, but Doubleday, Sr. left six years before Abner was born.

Thanks, Tom!

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