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Who Invented Baseball?

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Who Invented Baseball?

For my twelfth birthday, my grandmother on my dad's side gave me a handheld electronic trivia game all about sports. One of the many questions the game asked was "who invented baseball?" After two incorrect attempts the game graciously informed me that Mr. Abner Doubleday was in fact the lone inventor of baseball. I played the game so many times that the questions would cycle through and I eventually knew every answer, and after about 200 games the fact that Mr. Doubleday invented baseball was firmly ingrained in my mind right alongside Dr. Naismith and his game of basketball. However, upon further research into the origins of baseball, the only thing that is certain is that Mr. Doubleday did not play any role whatsoever in the invention of our Nation's pastime.

According to Stephen Jay Gould, scientist, writer, and historian of science, "Abner Doubleday didn't know a baseball from a kumquat". The myth that dubbed him the creator of baseball was part of not only America's desire to brand this wonderful game our own by having a decorated Civil War hero be the inventor, but also our human nature which compels us to know the beginning. Baseball has no equivalent for Thomas Edison and his light bulb, nor Eli Whitney and his cotton gin. To say one person invented baseball throws away hundreds of years of creativity and history. But, as Gould states, "We seem to prefer the alternate model of origin by a moment of creation- for then we can have heroes and sacred places". The Abner Doubleday myth can be traced back to Albert Spalding, and two letters written by a mining engineer from Colorado named Abner Graves. One letter was sent to the Beacon-Journal newspaper and the other directly to Mr. Spalding which testified "The American game of "Base Ball" was invented by Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, New York" although Graves could not specify any exact dates to support his claim. However this seemed evidence enough and Mr. Doubleday was credited with the invention of baseball, which would have came as a surprise to him because the late Civil War hero, having died in 1893, would have never known he invented baseball.

It is widely accepted theory that baseball evolved from the British games of rounders and cricket. While certainly no one can deny the similarities present between the games, it is difficult to prove which games spawned and influenced the others. "Once upon a time, in the first half of the 18th century, a game for children called base-ball materialized on the English scene." This quote from David Block's book, Baseball Before We Knew It contrasts the popular "rounders" theory by stating that base-ball originated without the help of predeceasing games. New York Times writer John Keiran put it best in a quaint poem:

"Oh Abner of the Doubledays in far-off Elysian,

Your claim to fame is called a foul by later-day decision.

Some prying archaeologists have gone and found some traces

Of baseball footprints ages old in sundry English places."

A fundamental problem exists with the discovery of baseballs true origins. Simply put, there is not enough documentation to completely prove everything and set the record straight. People (mainly kids) were just trying to have fun and play games. Children invent new games on the playground all the time, but rarely decide to take the time to document this new game with all its rules and pinpoint the exact date it was played. Nobody at the time thought that this game could possibly evolve into a worldwide phenomenon and even help shape the culture and national identity of countries. Even if the thought crossed someone's mind that the game could develop into such a success, the technology present at the time would have required that person to bust out his ink and feather and clearly document the origin of the game. Not to mention they must ensure the survival



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