The Abner Doubleday Conspiracy
For over a century the 'invention' of baseball has been inaccurately attributed to Abner Doubleday. How was this myth perpetuated and what was its origins?

Background

Baseball ushered in the 20th century surging in popularity. The game's executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs were eager to stamp the "America's Game" moniker on the sport they worked feverishly to establish. For many years prior, there was heated debate about its origins. One camp insisted that it evoloved from the English game of "rounders" and cricket, while others steadfastly held to the belief that it is, and always was, an American game.

The Mills Commission

With the desire to put to rest the debate and provide proof of baseball's beginning in America by an American, Albert Spalding - founder of the National League and one of the most powerful men in the baseball business - formed a commission in 1905 headed by former National League President Abraham G. Mills. Interestingly, all of the "Mills Commission" members were of the opinion that it was truly an American game.

The Commission's Findings

The commission extended a public invitation to all who may have had some knowledge of the early game. Although it was found to be a very complex and undocumented history, many of those early players generally agree that the game was originally loosely based on games of English origin. However, after over a year the commission proudly (and quite biasedly) attributed the invention of baseball to Abner Doubleday.

The Doubleday Connection

The commission based their final decision almost exclusively on the testimony of one man. A 71-year-old named Abner Graves. After reading a 'call for people who had knowledge of the beginnings of the game' in the Beacon Journal newspaper in Akron, Ohio, Graves fabricated his story of 1839, Abner Doubleday (1819-1893; Major General of the U.S. Army and Civil War hero), and Cooperstown, where Graves had attended school with Doubleday. He claimed to recall seeing drawings of a field in the dirt and on paper by Doubleday. Graves sent his story to the Beacon Journal and it was published with the title "Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball."

The Conspiracy

The Mills Commission had the story that they were searching for. Although there were many inconsistences in Graves story, no one from the commission ever corresponded, interviewed or met with Graves (who by the way was only 5 years of age in 1839). They had their American to base the beginnings of the game on and end the debate. The final report was issued on December 30, 1907. Graves was not mentioned by name in the report, and at the time the country was still naive as to the actual origins of the game. Abner Doubleday, meanwhile, never claimed to have "invented" the game and he never mentioned Baseball in any of his extensive diaries. Interestingly, in 1839 Doubleday was enrolled in the military academy at West Point in 1839 and not even in Cooperstown, NY.

Perhaps over time, baseball will shed its connection with Doubleday. However, he will not be forgotten for his contribution as a soldier. A statue of him stands on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Learn More...

Read more about the fascinating and complex beginnings and evolution of baseball. A must have by author John Thorn. MLB's offical historian of the game.
Baseball in the Garden of Eden
Forget Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown. Forget Alexander Joy Cartwright and the New York Knickerbockers. Instead, meet Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton, and Louis Fenn Wadsworth, each of whom has a stronger claim to baseball paternity than Doubleday or Cartwright.