Some sports have a clear inventor and start date, others evolved throughout history and still, others try and do both. Basketball was invented in 1891 with the first game taking place on December 21st. This is largely accepted as fact. Baseball, on the other hand, is very different. Some claim that Baseball was invented by Alexander Cartwright, others claim it was invented by Abner Doubleday, and others say that neither man invented it, it simply evolved. The sad part of this debate is that when you look at the facts the answer is glaringly obvious, yet many refuse to do so. Let’s get to the bottom of this baseball mystery.
As recently as 2010, Bud Selig, the former Commissioner for Major League Baseball declared Abner Doubleday the inventor of baseball. Selig claimed that he was a student of history and confident that Doubleday had created the sport. It sounded pretty convincing but after we have looked at the facts it is more like that Selig was a student of fiction, not history.
When you examine the life of Abner Doubleday it is clear that he could not have invented baseball. In his own obituary, it notes he did not like outdoor sports. While that is a strange thing to put in an obituary, it is pretty damning. There is a large amount of Doubleday’s life on record, he wrote many letters and his life can be traced pretty easily. He was a war hero and his exploits are clear. What is also clear is that in all of his correspondence he had no interest in sports, baseball and made no claim to have created it. So where did the idea come from?
A committee was formed in 1907 to get to the bottom of where baseball came from. At the time some claimed that it evolved from European sports, most notably rounders. Others said that the sport was purely American and was invented without the influence of other sports. They just needed to prove it. The group struggled to find any history of the founding of baseball and so put an ad in the newspaper asking for help. One man wrote in saying that Doubleday had created the sport in his home town between the years 1839 and 1841. The committee loved it. An American war hero had created the sport, in a classic American town. They printed the story and it became history.
Sadly, the story made no sense. The man who wrote the story couldn’t place a firm date on the game and changed his story from whether he played in the game or not. The committee chose 1839 as the foundation date, our writer would have been four. What’s worse is that Doubleday had not been in the town of question for many years before the claimed date. He couldn’t have been there at that time.
Doubleday clearly did not invent baseball. The man who claimed he did was 71 years old and later entered an insane asylum. He was not a reputable source. The Cartwright story is not much better. That story clearly shows that he simply formalized a game that already existed at the time. That game was town ball. Town ball can clearly show its roots in rounders in Europe. It is clear as day that baseball is based on the game of rounders.
It appeared that the baseball commitment was so desperate to claim baseball as an American sport that they tried to find any way they could to make it a reality. In truth, baseball is an American sport, but it is rooted in European games.