07/17/2005: Baseball literary übermensch John Thorn has a blog?
Yes, indeedy, and in it yesterday he produced a fascinating post... Who's the "Father of Baseball"? Well, as we all pretty much know, not Abner Doubleday. But more to the point, not even Alexander Cartwright... well, not completely. According to Thorn, baseball as we know it has four fathers:
Every good idea has a multitude of fathers and a bad idea none. Baseball has been unusually blessed with claimants to paternity. Because I have beaten up Abner Doubleday for decades as baseball’s version of the Easter Bunny, I will ease up on him now. However, much indeed remains to be said about how this real General was transformed after his death, largely by sporting-goods magnate and former player Albert Spalding, into a phony Inventor.If you have an interest in the history (or would that be "pre-history"?) of baseball give Thorn's essay a read.
Moving beyond the silly but persistent Doubleday legend and such later “Fathers of Baseball” as Henry Chadwick (the game’s great publicist) and Harry Wright (a true innovator on the field and off), I would like to review the intriguing credentials of four other individuals, all of them members of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York (KBBC) between 1845 and 1857: Alexander Cartwright; Daniel Lucius Adams; William Rufus Wheaton; and Louis Fenn Wadsworth. The name Cartwright is known to many baseball fans, as he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the year of its dedication. Adams and Wheaton are known only to specialists, and have been subjects of investigative scholarship over the past decade or so. Finally the mysterious Wadsworth, whom I am have been pursuing for more than twenty years, may now provide the most compelling story of all.
Before we proceed to locate DNA evidence of the game’s true father, let’s set one thing straight at the outset: the 80-year-old Chadwick had it right when he said in 1904, only one year before the formation of the Mills Commission to study the origins of baseball, “Like Topsy, baseball never had no ‘fadder’; it jest growed.”
Len on 07.17.05 @ 11:39 AM CST