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Biographical Encyclopedia of Non-Playing Contributors

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  • Biographical Encyclopedia of Non-Playing Contributors

    I've been compiling information on non-players (executives, pioneers, managers, umpires, etc.) from the game's early years. Attempting to collect as much as I can on these "baseball men," many of whose contributions are largely forgotten today. Suggestions for additional information, resources, or subjects are welcome; just please contact me via PM about it. This thread is intended for read-only purposes. Thanks!

    Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Contributors
    Daniel L. Adams
    Frank Bancroft
    Ernest S. Barnard
    Ed Barrow
    Morgan G. Bulkeley
    Sam Breadon
    John T. Brush
    Bill Carrigan
    Alexander Cartwright
    O.P. Caylor
    Henry Chadwick
    Aaron B. Champion
    Fred Clarke
    Charlie Comiskey
    Tom Connolly
    Harry Cross
    John B. Day
    Bill Dinneen
    Barney Dreyfuss
    Jack Dunn
    Charles Ebbets
    Bob Emslie
    Billy Evans
    Bob Ferguson
    John B. Foster
    Andrew Freedman
    John Gaffney
    Clark Griffith
    Ned Hanlon
    Garry Herrmann
    John A. Heydler
    Miller Huggins
    William Hulbert
    Ban Johnson
    Kick Kelly
    Bill Klem
    Judge Kenesaw M. Landis
    Ernest J. Lanigan
    Fred Lieb
    Connie Mack
    Jimmy McAleer
    John McGraw
    Sid Mercer
    Abraham G. Mills
    Tim Murnane
    Charles Murphy
    Frank Navin
    Silk O'Loughlin
    Patrick Powers
    Harry Pulliam
    Bob Quinn
    Al Reach
    Branch Rickey
    Francis Richter
    Wilbert Robinson
    Damon Runyon
    Jacob Ruppert
    Frank Selee
    Michael Sexton
    John B. Sheridan
    Ben Shibe
    Arthur Soden
    Charles Somers
    A.G. Spalding
    J.G. Taylor Spink
    George Stallings
    Charles Stoneham
    Chris von der Ahe
    John Montgomery Ward
    George Wright
    Harry Wright
    Nicholas E. Young
    Last edited by Chadwick; 08-07-2008, 08:00 AM.
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

  • #2

    Daniel Lucius Adams

    NY Knickerbockers, Dec. 1962, "all-star team" of key members from 1845-50.
    Left to right, standing: 1. Duncan Curry; 2. Walter T. Avery; 3. Henry T. (Tiebout) Anthony; 4. Charles H. Birney; 5. William H. Tucker.
    Seated: 6. Charles Schuyler DeBost; 7. Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams; 8. James W. Davis; 9. Ebenezer R. Dupignac, Jr.; 10. Fraley C. Niebuhr.
    Historian John Thorn has suggested this gathering took place to honor Adams upon his departure from the club as these sorts of photographs were very rare and expensive at this time.

    SABR Baseball Biography Project entry by John Thorn:
    The history of baseball is a lie from beginning to end, from its creation myth to its rosy models of commerce, community, and fair play. The conventional tale of the game's birth is substantially incorrect-not just the Doubleday fable, pointless to attack, but even the scarcely less legendary development of the Knickerbocker game, ostensibly sired by Alexander Cartwright.

    Let's look at the delicate condition of baseball's paternity.

    Earlier histories of baseball, from those published annually by Henry Chadwick in the Beadle, DeWitt, and Spalding Guides to book-length histories such as Charles Peverelly's Book of American Pastimes (1866) and Jacob Morse's Sphere and Ash (1888), gave credit to the Knickerbockers for the eventual ascendance of the New York Game of baseball over the competing Massachusetts Game, but did not single out Cartwright as the sole creator. In 1860, in the premier edition of the Beadle Dime Base Ball Player, Chadwick acknowledged the existence of the New York Base Ball Club prior to the organization of the Knicks, but stated, "we shall not be far wrong if we award to the Knickerbocker the honor of being the pioneers of the present game of base ball." Still, he never swerved from his assertion in that same essay that it was rounders, the English childhood game, "from which base ball is derived." Only in the next century did Cartwright become, no less than Doubleday, a tool of those who wished to establish baseball as the product of an identifiable spark of American ingenuity, without foreign or Darwinian taint.

    Cartwright did much to formulate rules that codified the game that the Knicks were already playing: laying out baseball on a "diamond" rather than a square, introducing the concept of foul territory, and eliminating the rounders and town-ball practice of retiring a runner by throwing the ball at him. But Cartwright assuredly did not do any of the three central things credited to him on his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame: "Set bases 90 feet apart. Established 9 innings as a game and 9 players as a team." He also did not create the forty-five-foot pitching distance, nor the requirement that a ball be caught on the fly to register an out, nor a system for calling balls and strikes.

    The truth of the paternity question? Eighty-year-old Henry Chadwick had it right when he said in 1904, only one year before the formation of the Mills Commission, "Like Topsy, baseball never had no 'fadder'; it jest growed." In fact, until Papa Doubleday was pulled out of the hat, it was Chadwick himself who had most frequently been honored with the sobriquet "Father of Baseball," not for any powers of invention but for his role in popularizing and shaping the game. Others to have been accorded patriarchal honors were Harry Wright, who organized the first openly professional team; Albert Spalding, the tireless player, magnate, and tour promoter; William Hulbert, founder of the National League in 1876; and Daniel L. Adams, whose name today is scarcely known.

    Daniel Lucius Adams was born on November 1, 1814, in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, the younger of two sons of Dr. Daniel Adams (born in 1773; graduated from Dartmouth College, 1797, and received his medical degree from the school in 1799) and Nancy Mulliken Adams. Both parents were born in Townsend, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In addition to being a doctor of medicine, the father was a noted orator and author, whose mathematics textbook The Scholar's Arithmetic, Or, Federal Accountant was in constant use under varying titles and editions from 1806 to the Civil War. In his biographical record for Yale University, Daniel Lucius Adams was to write of his father, "He was deeply interested in common schools; an active promoter of improvement in agriculture; an earnest advocate of the temperance cause, and was frequently called upon in public in the advancement of these objects. He was an early decided, abolitionist...."

    The younger Adams received his early education at the Mt. Pleasant Classical Institution in Amherst, Massachusetts, going on to spend his first two years of college at Amherst after entering in 1831. He graduated from Yale in 1835, progressing to a medical degree from Harvard in 1838 and then a general practice first with his father back in Mont Vernon, then in Boston, and ultimately in New York City, coupled with an active involvement with treating the poor at the New York Dispensaries. He first resided and practiced at 511 Broadway, moving to 45 White Street in 1843; ultimately he settled in at 14 Bond Street in the 1850s.

    Adams, known to all as "Doc," began to play baseball in 1839. "I was always interested in athletics while in college and afterward," he told an interviewer at the age of eighty-one, "and soon after going to New York I began to play base ball just for exercise, with a number of other young medical men. Before that there had been a club called the New York Base Ball Club, but it had no very definite organization and did not last long. Some of the younger members of that club got together and formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, September 24, 1845 [actually September 23]. The players included merchants, lawyers, Union Bank clerks [like Cartwright], insurance clerks and others who were at liberty after 3 o'clock in the afternoon. They went into it just for exercise and enjoyment, and I think they used to get a good deal more solid fun out of it than the players in the big games do nowadays.

    "About a month after the organization of this club, several of us medical fellows joined it, myself among the number. The following year I was made President and served as long as I was willing to retain the office."

    What's new here? Plenty. According to Adams, the New York Base Ball Club not only preceded the Knickerbocker, but formed it; for example, such early New York Base Ball Club (NYBBC) members as James Lee, Abraham Tucker, and William Wheaton all became Knickerbockers in 1845-1846. As early as 1840, Adams played a game in New York that he understood to be baseball, no matter what it was called: with a handful of participants, it was compelled to be a version of cat; with as many as seven or eight, however, it was likely to be baseball--just as it was played by members of the NYBBC or Gotham Ball Club, the ancestor of both the Knicks and the New Yorks. This game, called "base ball" and not "rounders" or "town ball," had been played in New York City as early as 1832 by two clubs, one composed of residents of the first ward (the lower part of the city), the other of residents of the ninth and fifteenth wards (the upper part of the city). By 1843, when the Knicks were still playing at their original site in Madison Square, the sides had been reduced to eight, which included a "pitch," a "behind," three basemen, and three in the field, and the playing field had been changed from a square to a diamond, as in rounders. According to Alphonse Martin, a prominent pitcher in the 1860s who left an unpublished manuscript "History of Base Ball," it was Cartwright who prompted this move. In later years, when asked how the game of baseball originated, Doc Adams declined to identify a distinct starting point; he believed it grew from rounders.

    Actually, baseball as played by the Knicks in the years 1845-1849 (Cartwright left for California in the gold-rush spring of 1849) was almost never a nine-man game; eight, ten, and eleven men to the side were all more frequently employed. (As late as 1855, an unsigned columnist for the New York Clipper wrote: "Base Ball can be played by any number from five upwards; nine, however, being the usual number of each side.") Play was conducted in accord with Cartwright's model of only three basemen, and on the rare occasions when nine or more fielding positions were created by a surfeit of players, the "extras" were put into the outfield or held in reserve. In a game in late May 1847, for example, when eleven men were available to each side, the Knickerbockers' response was to play with nine, including four outfielders, and hold two men out as substitutes.

    The advent of the short fielder, or shortstop-the position created in 1849 or 1850 by Adams-was a crucial break with rounders. "I used to play shortstop," he reminisced, "and I believe I was the first one to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered." But when Adams first went out to short, it was not to bolster the infield but to assist in relays from the outfield. The early Knickerbocker ball was so light that it could not be thrown even two hundred feet, thus the need for a short fielder to send the ball in to the pitcher's point.

    "We had a great deal of trouble in getting balls made," Adams recalled, "and for six or seven years I made all the balls myself, not only for our club but also for other clubs when they were organized. [He also supervised the turning of the bats during this period.] I went all over New York to find someone who would undertake this work, but no one could be induced to try it for love or money. Finally I found a Scotch saddler who was able to show me a good way to cover the balls with horsehide, such as was used for whip lashes. I used to make the stuffing out of three or four ounces of rubber cuttings, wound with yarn and then covered with the leather. Those balls were, of course, a great deal softer than the balls now [1896] in use."

    When the ball was wound tighter, gaining more hardness and resilience, it could be hit farther and, crucially, thrown farther. This permitted the shortstop to come into the infield, which Adams did. Even more important, the introduction of the hard ball permitted a change in the dimensions of the playing field. The Knickerbocker rules of 1845 had specified no pitching distance and no baseline length; all that was indicated was "from 'home' to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant." It has been presumed by scholars that when a three-foot pace is plugged in, the resulting baselines of eighty-nine feet are close enough to the present ninety so that we can proclaim Cartwright's genius. In fact, the pace in 1845 was either an imprecise and variable measure, to gauge distances by "stepping off"; or it was precisely two and a half feet, in which case the distance from home to second would have been 105 feet and the Cartwright basepaths would have been 74.25 feet.

    The pace of 1845 could not have been interpreted as the precise equivalent of three feet. This alternate definition of a pace as a three-foot measure did not come into practice until much later in the century. (Here is the definition of a pace from An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828: "1. A step. 2. The space between the two feet in walking, estimated at two feet and a half. But the geometrical pace is five feet, or the whole space passed over by the same foot from one step to another." This definition was not changed for Webster's 1853 revised edition.)

    Personal research indicates that seventy-five-foot basepaths were the norm well into the mid-1850s, when the distance between home and second base and between first and third bases was first prescribed as "42 paces or yards," and were the standard for youth play well into the next decade.

    In 1848 Adams, as Knickerbocker president, headed the Committee to Revise the Constitution and By-Laws; Alexander Cartwright served under him. Adams's interest in refining the rules of the game, already evident, was further piqued by the formation of additional clubs, beginning with the Washington Base Ball Club in 1850, which like the Knickerbockers was constructed around several former New York Base Ball Club members. In 1852 the Washingtons were renamed the Gothams and took in additional players, and the Eagle Club, which had been organized to play town ball in 1840, reconstituted itself to become the Eagle Base Ball Club. "The playing rules remained very crude up to this time," Adams said, "but in 1853 the three clubs united in a revision of the rules and regulations. At the close of 1856 there were twelve clubs in existence, and it was decided to hold a convention of delegates from all of these for the purpose of establishing a permanent code of rules by which all should be governed. A call was therefore issued, signed by the officers of the Knickerbocker Club as the senior organization, and the result was the assembling of the first convention of baseball players in May 1857. I was elected presiding officer." It was at this meeting, eight years after Cartwright's western expedition, that the winner of a game was defined as the team that was ahead at the conclusion of nine innings, rather than the first team to score twenty-one runs. "In March of the next year the second convention was held, and at this meeting the annual convention was declared a permanent organization, and with the requisite constitution and by-laws became the 'National Association of [Base] Ball Players.'

    "I was chairman of the Committee on Rules and Regulations from the start and so long as I retained membership. I presented the first draft of rules, prepared after much careful study of the matter, and it was in the main adopted. The distance between bases I fixed at 30 yards, the only previous determination of distance being 'the bases shall be from home to second base 42 paces, from first to third base 42 paces equidistant,' which was rather vague. In every meeting of the National Association while a member, I advocated the fly-game, that is, not to allow first-bound catches, but I was always defeated on the vote. The change was made, however, soon after I left, as I predicted in my last speech on the subject before the convention.

    "The distance from home to pitcher's base I made 45 feet. Many of the old rules, such as those defining a foul, remain substantially the same today," he concluded in 1896, "while others are changed and, of course, many new ones added. I resigned in 1862, but not before thousands were present to witness matches, and any number of outside players standing ready to take a hand on regular playing days." In the 1840s players could not be relied upon to show up for practice. Adams recalled that the Knickerbockers frequently went to Hoboken to find only two or three members present and were often obliged to take their exercise "in the form of 'old cat,' 'one' or 'two' as the case might be." (Bat-and-ball games of cat, or catapult ball, could be played by as many players as were on hand, with the number of bases or holes expanding with the cast of characters-the game was really one ol' (hole) cat, and had nothing to do with superannuated felines.) But, he summed up in 1896, "we pioneers never expected to see the game so universal as it has now become."

    On May 7, 1861, Adams married Cornelia A. Cook. As he would later write, "My marriage was the crowning achievement of my life." Less than a year later he resigned from the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, which awarded him an honorary membership and passed a resolution naming him the "Nestor of Ball Players." In 1865 he retired from his medical practice in New York for reasons of health, moving to Ridgefield, Connecticut. There he lived on Main Street in the former home of Revolutionary War hero Colonel Philip Burr Bradley. Soon becoming a prominent citizen of his new hometown, Adams served in the State House of Representatives for the legislative session of 1870 and, in the following year, was elected the first president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank. Adams remained in that position for eight years and then, after a five-year hiatus, resumed the post for another two, serving until July 1, 1886. Between terms as president of the bank, he was elected the first treasurer of the Ridgefield Library. "The current of my life," he wrote in 1880 or so, "has been very quiet and uniform, neither distinguished by any great successes, [n]or disturbed by serious reverses. I have been content to consider myself one of the ordinary, every-day workers of the world, with no ambition to fill its high positions, and have no reason to complain of the results of my labor. The condition of my health has prevented active employment for several years past, but life has passed very pleasantly in the midst of a thoroughly united and happy domestic circle."

    Although Adams had played his last formal game of baseball on September 27, 1875, in an old-timers' contest arranged by longtime Knickerbocker comrade James Whyte Davis, he continued to play backyard ball with his two sons well into the 1880s. In 1888 he moved his family to New Haven, where the boys attended Sheffield Scientific School. After suffering five days from influenza that developed into pneumonia, on January 3, 1899, Daniel Lucius Adams died in his home at 146 Edwards Street.

    For his role in making baseball the success it is, Doc Adams may be counted as first among the Fathers of Baseball. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Catherine, born May 3, 1866, married Dr. William L. Elkin, but they had no children. Mary W., born October 15, 1868, never married. Francis M. Adams, a son born June 7, 1871, drifted away from his family, and nothing is known of his later life. It is through Roger C. Adams, born May 1, 1874, that the family lineage persists. Additionally, in 1939 R. C. Adams wrote a memoir of his father. Unpublished in his day, it was printed in the New York Times on April 13, 1980, along with a letter to the editor by R. C. Adams's great-grandson Nathan Adams Downey.
    19th Century Baseball entry:
    Daniel "Doc" Adams
    "Doc" Adams (1814–1899) was elected President of the Knickerbockers in 1846. Two years later he headed the Committee to Revise the Constitution and By-Laws with Cartwright serving under him. Cartwright left New York on March 1, 1849, for the California Gold Rush and eventually ended up in Hawaii.

    Adams has been credited with "inventing" the 'short-fielder' or 'shortstop' position in 1849 or 1850. The position evolved because the baseballs used, handmade by Adams, were light and could not be thrown far. A non-base-tending player was needed to retrieve balls from the outfielders and return them to the pitcher.

    Under Adams’ presidency (1846–1862), the Knickerbocker Club became the model upon which all early clubs were organized. So dominant was the Knickerbocker Club during the 1840's and 1850's, that they transformed Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey into the first great center of Baseball activity in the United States.

    The First Base Ball Convention
    Considered by some to be the true "Father of Baseball," "Doc" Adams was elected president of the first Base Ball Convention in 1857. He also headed the Committee on Rules and Regulations that year, which instituted the following rules: nine equal innings for a full game, five equal innings for a complete game, 30 yard distance between the four bases, the pitching distance should be 45 feet and he also stated that nine men should comprise a team.

    With the rules better defined and with the success of the 1857 convention, the game became increasingly popular. Subsequent conventions attracted more teams. The Civil War caused membership to decrease but helped introduce the game to southern parts of the United States. The membership of the National Association of Base Ball Players increased to more than 300 members in 1867.

    Doc Adams' Legacy
    Adams was elected as Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Regulations during the March 1858 Base Ball Convention in which the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. He resigned in 1862 and two years later the bound rule which he fought since 1857 was abolished. He also resigned from the Knickerbockers in 1862 and played in his last base ball game in September 1875 in an "old-timers" match arranged by formed Knickerbocker James Whyte Davis. Adams died on January 3, 1899.

    Under Adams' presidency (1846-1862), the Knickerbocker Club became the model upon which all early clubs were organized. So dominant was the Knickerbocker Club during the 1840's and 1850's, that they transformed Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey into the first great center of Baseball activity in the United States.
    Essay forming the basis of historian John Thorn's remarks to Smithsonian Institution on July 14, 2005:
    Four Fathers of Baseball
    Speaking of history in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland comments, "I think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be an invention." Indeed.

    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.

    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 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.”

    Little more than a year ago, the mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts held a press conference to reveal my discovery of a 1791 “broken window” ordinance mentioning baseball — by that name — among other sports that were prohibited within 80 yards of a newly built meeting house. This beat Abner Doubleday’s purported invention of 1839 by nearly half a century, while also rocketing past George Thompson’s wonderful 2001 find of baseball being played in New York City in 1823. Last year Randall Brown discovered a remarkable interview with Wheaton and wrote about it in the 2004 edition of SABR's The National Pastime. And this year David Block published his groundbreaking book Baseball Before We Knew It, which greatly expands our knowledge of early baseball and protoball games.

    In short, recent scholarship has revealed the history of baseball’s origin to be merely a lie agreed upon. According to the Hall of Fame plaque for Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr., he is the “Father of Modern Base Ball. Set bases 90 feet apart. Established 9 innings as a game and 9 players as a team. Organized the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of N.Y. in 1845. Carried baseball to Pacific Coast and Hawaii in pioneer days.” I can tell you that each and every one of these statements is either demonstrably false or lacks evidence of truth.

    The Knickerbocker game during Cartwright’s tenure (he departed for the Gold Rush early in 1849) was almost never played with nine men, but instead as few as seven or as many as eleven; the number of innings was unspecified; the length of the baselines was imprecise. Sometimes referred to as an engineer even though he was a bank teller and then a book seller, Cartwright’s “scientific” mind was further credited for laying out the game on a diamond rather than a square; introducing the concept of foul territory; and eliminating the time-honored practice of retiring a runner by throwing the ball at him.

    False, false, false.

    Cartwright was indeed a Knickerbocker, an officer of the club, and an enthusiastic player, but he won his plaque through the propagandizing efforts of his son Bruce — which extended to crafting his father’s Hawaii “recollections” of baseball’s invention and even inserting fabricated baseball exploits into a “typescript” of his father’s Gold Rush journal, which survives as a handwritten book containing no baseball remarks. (Especially bogus among the son’s emendations: “It is comical to see the mountain men and Indians playing the new game” and “During our week’s stay here I unpacked the ball we used in forming the Knickerbockers back home and we have had several satisfactory contests. My original copy of the rule book has come in handy and saves arguments.”)

    Cartwright did not play in the “first match game” by Knickerbocker rules, June 19, 1846, which the Knicks lost to the fuzzy aggregation known as the New York Base Ball Club (NYBBC) by a score of 23-1. As early as 1889, a writer for the New York Mercury had observed the irony that baseball’s “first team” had no trouble in finding a rival nine that was experienced enough to give it a thrashing.

    Daniel Lucius Adams, a physician known to his friends as “Dock,” was the man who in 1857 actually set the bases at 90 feet apart, who fixed the pitching distance at 45 feet, and who advocated tirelessly for the fly game, seeking to eliminate the sissy rule of permitting outs to be registered with catches on the first bounce. (I first wrote about Adams' signal role in shaping the modern game in 1992 for Elysian Fields Quarterly.) He also added the position of shortstop to the Knicks’ scheme in 1848 — not as an extra infielder, but to assist in relays from the outfield. The early Knick ball was so light that it could not be thrown even 200 feet; thus the need for a short fielder to relay the ball in to the pitcher’s point and stop the runners’ advance.

    When the ball was wound tighter, gaining more hardness and resilience, it could be hit farther and, crucially, thrown farther. This permitted the shortstop to come into the infield, which Adams did. Even more important, the introduction of the hard ball permitted a change in the dimensions of the playing field. The Knickerbocker rules of 1845 had specified no pitching distance and no baseline length; all that was indicated was “from ‘home’ to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant.” It had been presumed that when a three-foot pace was plugged in, the resulting baselines of eighty-nine feet were close enough to the present ninety so that we could proclaim Cartwright’s genius. In fact, the pace in 1845 was either an imprecise and variable measure, gauged by “stepping off” … or precisely two and a half feet, as in Noah Webster’s Dictionary of that time, in which case the distance from home to second would have been 105 feet and the Cartwright basepaths would have been inches shy of 75 feet.

    Adams had joined the Knicks one month after their founding, but like Cartwright and his friends William Tucker, William Wheaton, and Duncan Curry, he had been playing ball at the park in Madison Square since 1840, commingling with the men who would become (or already were) members of other clubs. The New York Base Ball Club, also known as the Gothams, had been playing since the mid-1830s, and the Eagle Ball Club was organized in 1840. According to William Wood, writing in 1867, both of these clubs originally played in the “old-fashioned way” of throwing the ball to the batter and at the runner in order to put him out.

    William Rufus Wheaton was a lawyer who, like Cartwright and several other Knicks, left New York as a Miner ’49er and made his home out West. Wheaton had been a solid cricketer and baseball player, an early member of both the NYBBC and the KBBC. Less than a year before his death in Oakland in 1888 at age 74, Wheaton spoke with a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner for a story titled “How Baseball Began / A Member of the Gotham Club of Fifty Years Ago [not the Knicks!] Tells About It.” Wheaton recalled:

    In the thirties I lived at the corner of Rutgers street and East Broadway in New York. I was admitted to the bar in ‘36, and was very fond of physical exercise.... There was a racket club in Allen street with an inclosed court. Myself and intimates, young merchants, lawyers and physicians, found cricket to[o] slow and lazy a game. We couldn’t get enough exercise out of it. Only the bowler and the batter had anything to do, and the rest of the players might stand around all the afternoon without getting a chance to stretch their legs. Racket was lively enough, but it was expensive and not in an open field where we could have full swing and plenty of fresh air with a chance to roll on the grass. Three-cornered cat was a boy’s game, and did well enough for slight youngsters, but it was a dangerous game for powerful men, because the ball was thrown to put out a man between bases, and it had to hit the runner to put him out....

    We had to have a good outdoor game, and as the games then in vogue didn’t suit us we decided to remodel three-cornered cat and make a new game. We first organized what we called the Gotham Baseball Club. This was the first ball organization in the United States, and it was completed in 1837.... The first step we took in making baseball was to abolish the rule of throwing the ball at the runner and order that it should be thrown to the baseman instead, who had to touch the runner with it before he reached the base.... After the Gotham club had been in existence a few months it was found necessary to reduce the rules of the new game to writing. This work fell to my hands, and the code I then formulated is substantially that in use to-day.

    The new game quickly became very popular with New Yorkers, and the numbers of the club soon swelled beyond the fastidious notions of some of us, and we decided to withdraw and found a new organization, which we called the Knickerbocker....

    So what exactly did Cartwright do?

    This brings us to Louis F. Wadsworth, a famous first baseman for the Gothams and the Knickerbockers from about 1850 to 1862. No one credited him as an innovator, let alone a possible Father of Baseball, until the winter of 1907, when the Mills Commission neared the end of its three-year mandate. Abraham Mills had received the Commission’s findings so late that he could not finish his review; he dictated a letter to his stenographer in the afternoon of December 30, 1907 in which he hurriedly stated his conclusions and anointed Doubleday as per Spalding’s wishes.

    Still, he commented on an unsettled question: “I am also much interested in the statement made by Mr. Curry, of the pioneer Knickerbocker club, and confirmed by Mr. Tassie, of the famous old Atlantic club of Brooklyn, that a diagram, showing the ball field laid out substantially as it is today, was brought to the field one day by a Mr. Wadsworth. Mr. Curry says ‘the plan caused a great deal of talk, but, finally, we agreed to try it.’” Curry had made the statement to reporter Will Rankin in 1877, and Rankin had written about it to Mills 28 years later.

    With that report the Commission’s work was done, and its conclusions were published in Spalding’s Official Guide for the 1908 season. No more was heard about Wadsworth until 1973, when Harold Peterson wrote a book about Alex Cartwright called The Man Who Invented Baseball. In it he observed: “Mr. Wadsworth, whose Christian name, occupation, residence, and pedigree remained secreted in Mills’s bosom, was never heard of before or until long after that fateful afternoon [in 1877, when Curry spoke with Rankin].”

    Rummaging through carbon copies of Mills’ letters in 1982, I came upon a few notes from 1908 indicating that Mills, despite the conclusion of the Commission’s work, continued to search for Wadsworth. On January 6, 1908 he wrote to Rankin:

    In the mass of correspondence in regard to the origin of Base Ball, that was submitted to me, as a member of the Commission, by its Secretary, Mr. J. E. Sullivan, are copies of two very interesting letters written by you, under date of Jan. 15th and Feb. 15th, ’05. In the first of the three letters you quote Mr. Curry as stating that ‘some one had presented a plan showing a ball field,’ etc., and, in the second letter, Mr. Tassie told you that he remembered the incident, and that he ‘thought it was a Mr. Wadsworth who held an important position in the Custom House,” etc. Taking this as a clue I wrote sometime ago to the Collector of Customs, asking him to have the records searched for the yeas40 to ’45, for the purpose of ascertaining from what part of the State the Mr. Wadsworth, in question, came. [Mills suspected that an upstate Wadsworth had somehow brought the Doubleday diagram to New York.] I am today advised that a thorough search has been made without disclosing the name of any Mr. Wadsworth as having been connected with the Custom House during the decade of the ’40s.

    If you have the opportunity to do so, I wish you would see or communicate with Mr. Tassie, to try to clear this point up, as I would very much like to get on the track of the party who actually presented the plan of the ball field at the time and place indicated. The fact that Mr. Tassie remembered Mr. Wadsworth as the man who presented the plan inclines me to believe that his memory in this respect is likely to be correct, whereas it might well happen that he was a Custom House broker or had some relation other than that of being an employee of the Government in the Custom House. However that might be, if you can get me any further information upon the point indicated I would be very glad to have it. / Yours very truly, / (Signed) A.G. Mills.”

    Herein lay a crucial misunderstanding. Tassie’s Atlantics did not organize until the mid-1850s and his contact with Wadsworth could not have been much before that time. In fact he served on a rules committee with Wadsworth in 1857, a crucial one in which Wadsworth moved that the length of the game be set at nine innings rather than the seven that his fellow Knickerbockers had proposed.

    Wadsworth had been a Gotham until April 1, 1854, when he inexplicably switched allegiances (perhaps in exchange for considerations that would have made him the game’s first professional). Did he bring a diagram to the Knick field in 1854-55, when Adams lengthened the baselines from 75 feet to 90 and the pitcher’s distance from 37.5 feet to 45?

    Rankin wrote in The Sporting News in April 1908 that in 1886 he had “received a letter from an ex-professional player [surely Phonnie Martin], asking me to give him all the data I had on the subject [of baseball’s origin] and he would give me credit for it. At that time I had forgotten the name of the person mentioned by Mr. Curry, so I went to see Mr. Thomas Tassie, and when I related to him that which Mr. Curry had told me, he said, ‘That is true, and the name of the man was Mr. Wadsworth, a very brilliant after-dinner talker, the Chauncey M. Depew of that day. He held a very important position in the Custom House....’” But Rankin told Mills that he had erred in recording Curry’s man as Wadsworth — upon reflection nearly thirty years later, he was sure that Curry had said Cartwright. Furthermore, he bullied Tassie into allowing that perhaps he too recalled Cartwright ... though Cartwright had left New York before Tassie became involved in baseball.

    Louis F. Wadsworth had indeed left a cold trail … one that I and several genealogical experts had been unable to pick up. Even Wadsworth family histories offered no clue. Where did he live after 1862, when he disappeared from the New York City directories? Did he marry? Did he produce children? When did he die? Was he indeed an upstater, one of the Livingston County Wadsworths centered in Geneseo, as Mills had suspected?

    I was as stuck as Mills had been when his 1908 search of the Custom House records turned up nothing, and 10 years ago I had given up. Then the search tools of the internet opened up a new world and, little by little, the story began to unfold.

    Wadsworth had indeed been attached to the Custom House: as an attorney and as a Tammany-backed wheeler-dealer, though he was not a Federal employee. I learned that he had been born in Connecticut in 1825 and graduated from Washington College in Hartford (today known as Trinity College) in 1844; at school he had played no baseball — wicket, a game little recalled or understood today, was the game of choice for young Nutmeggers until nearly 1860. (Indeed, the first mention of wicket in America came in 1704, even before cricket, and George Washington was documented as playing the game on May 4, 1778: George Ewing, a Revolutionary War soldier at Valley Forge, wrote in a letter: “This day His Excellency [i.e., George Washington] dined with G[eneral] Nox [Knox] and after dinner did us the honor to play at Wicket with us.”)

    After graduation in 1844, Wadsworth went to Michigan, where his well-to-do father had bought land, and commenced his legal career in Manhattan in 1848. A tempestuous character who made enemies easily, three times Wadsworth resigned from the Knickerbockers over personal disagreements. Ultimately he returned to the Gothams and finished his ballplaying days there. But though the newspapers sang his praises when he was a player, he was little recalled thereafter.

    Truncating a twisted story that is long enough to run to several more pages, I can report that he later became a judge in New Jersey, was widowed, through drink lost a fortune estimated at $300,000, and in 1898 committed himself to a poorhouse. No one connected Louis F. Wadsworth, inmate of the Plainfield Industrial Home, with baseball's invention. Oddly, in his obituary in the Hartford Daily Times on Saturday April 4, 1908, it was written that: “A veritable book worm, day after day, he would sit reading.... In the summer he was particularly interested in following the scores of the ball games of the big leagues, and of late years the game was the one great object of interest to him.”
    Last edited by Chadwick; 08-07-2008, 06:34 AM.
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe


    • #3

      Frank Bancroft's T204 card. Of the 121 cards, Bancroft was one of only six to have his first and last name on the card and one of only four non-players in the set.

      Frank Carter Bancroft

      Bancroft's "Find a Grave Memorial" by Kevin Guy:
      Major League Baseball Manager. He is considered an influential baseball personality during the early era of the game. The Lancaster, Massachusetts-born Bancroft managed seven different Major League teams during a nine year stretch and is credited with introducing the game to Cuba in 1879. That year he closed a deal with a medicine company to sponsor a touring baseball team called the "Hop Bitters", which traveled throughout the Caribbean Islands. He would return to Cuba with another touring team in 1910 and encouraged several star players to come to the United States (A few Cubans were signed to Major League contracts the following year). He had mediocre success as a baseball manager with the exception of the 1884 Providence Grays who had posted the best record in the National League. The first post season contest was arranged at the end of that season pitting the Grays against the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. The Grays emerged victoriously, sweeping a best of five series, and were crowned as national champions. The event is unofficially considered as the first World Series. Bancroft also managed the Philadelphia Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds, as well as teams from several cities that later folded. He established an overall managerial record of 375 wins against 333 losses. He then became a business manager and worked for the Cincinnati Reds for thirty years. He is referred to in Cincinnati as the "Father of Opening Day" because he established the season's first game as a local "holiday" complete with a parade and other festivities, a tradition that has been carried on ever since. He died from pneumonia at a hospital in Cincinnati in 1921. He was 74 years old.
      Bancroft was prominent enough that the New York Times published the following notice on February 15, 1911:
      Frank Bancroft Has Appendicitis.
      CINCINNATI, Feb. 14. --- Frank C. Bancroft, 66 years old, business manager of the Cincinnati Baseball Club, was operated on for appendicitis to-day. Bancroft is one of the most widely known baseball men in the country, having managed several major league teams of two decades ago. He was in charge of the trip of the Philadelphia Athletics to Cuba this winter.
      Inscription on plaque for Reds Hall of Fame reads: "Banny" personified sunshine. He made dark days bright. He filled life's score with assists of good cheer. The great umpire called him out while his heart was still young. Unafraid to die, he smiled as he crossed eternity's home plate."

      New York Times, April 21, 1921, obituary:
      Former 'Business Manager of the Reds Was Widely Known.
      CINCINNATI, March 31 - Frank C. Bancroft, for many years business manager of the Cincinnati Baseball Club, died at a hospital here at midnight. He had been ill for several months of neuritis. He was 75 years of age.
      Frank Bancroft, more familiarly known to his many baseball associates as Banny, was born in Lancaster, Mass., May 9, 1846. He was a drummer boy during the Civil War and later engaged in the hotel business. Through friends made in this business he became interested in baseball and in 1887 was made manager of the New Bedford, Mass. team.
      When he gave up his position as secretary of the Cincinnati Reds last season he was the oldest man associated with the game. For many years he had been a picturesque figure in baseball and was not only known throughout the country, but enjoyed an unusually large acquaintance among men in the game. Having a very likable personality Bancroft made friends wherever he went and it was this faculty that helped to make him so successful in his field. It was frequently said of Banny that he had known every hotel proprietor in the country since the days of the Civil War. He at least knew a great many of them, for he was the pioneer of the barnstorming trips of baseball and took the first American team to Cuba, where he introduced the pastime that has since became so popular there.
      Last edited by Chadwick; 08-07-2008, 07:59 AM.
      "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
      "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
      "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
      "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe


      • #4
        OK, Brad. I will try to respond in a single post.

        I once created a post with reference links. Here it is

        Some of the more relevant reference resources from that post are thus.

        Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia, editors of Total Baseball, 2000; Total Sports Publishing, HB, 1298 pp., ISBN: 1-892129-34-5. 11 x 8.75, originally priced $49.94, 2,000 biographies, from brief to 4.5 pp.

        The Ballplayers, ed. Mike Shatzkin, 1990, Published William Morrow & Co.,Inc, HB, 1,230 pp., ISBN: 0-87795-984-6, 11 x 8.5, original price: $39.95, 6,000 entries, over-whelmingly on people. b/w photos

        New Biographical History of Baseball, Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella, 2002, Published Triumph Books, HC, 474 pp., ISBN: 1-57243-470-8, b/w photos, 9.25 x 7.25, originally $28.95. Over 1,500 entries, prominent BB figures, no personal data.

        Who's Who in Professional Baseball, Gene Karst & Martin J. Jones, Jr., 1973, Published Arlington House, HC, 919 pp., ISBN: 0-87000-220-1, no photos, all text, 9.5 x 6.5, originally $12.95. Over 1,500 brief bios, brief peraonnal data.

        The Baseball Necrology, by Bill Lee, 2003, Published McFarland, HC, 517 pp., ISBN: 0-7864-1539-8. All text, 10.5 x 7.25, Post-BB lives & deaths of over 7,600 ML players and other BB figures.
        Balldom, by George Leonard Moreland, 1914, published Balldom Publishing Co., HB, 304 pp., ISBN: on re-publishing in 1989 by Horton Publishing Co., 0-944786-46-4, all text, 7.5 x 5, originally $1.00. Wonderful early history of baseball.

        Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, by Bill James, 1985,1988, Oct., 2001, Villard Books, PB, 723 pp. in '88 revised, and 998 in his new revised Abstract, ISBN of his revised abstract: 0-684-80697-5. Some b/w photos, not oodles. 9.5 x 7.75, originally $45. Has a few flaws. Bill has a huge personal problem with Ty Cobb, which causes him to under-rate him to only 5th greatest. But despite this, is a must-have book on your shelf. Rates all positions to 100th best, plus top 100 Greatest, in order.

        Who's Who in Major League Baseball, 1933, compiled by editor-in-chief Harold (Speed) Johnson, and Associate Editor Harry Neily, Published Buxton Publishing Co., HC, Red cloth cover, 544 pp., b/w photos, 11.5 x 8.75. This amazing book contains the most amazing, dignified photos of famous players like Wagner, Ruth, plus umpires, manager, coaches, trainers, owners, statisticians, radio announcers, and team officials, and most rareof all, sports writers. It gives wallet photos & brief bios of 95 of the most prominent sports writers, with dates of birth, newspaper chronology of the careers. Extremely rare! Usually priced today from $250-500.
        Now I will try to assist on the individuals listed, where I can.

        Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Contributors
        Ernest S. Barnard -
        Ed Barrow -
        Sam Breadon -
        John T. Brush -
        Bill Carrigan -
        O.P. Caylor -
        Henry Chadwick -
        Fred Clarke -
        Charlie Comiskey -
        Tom Connolly -
        Harry Cross -
        Bill Dinneen -
        Barney Dreyfuss -
        Jack Dunn - which one? The one who owned the minor L. Orioles, or the owner of the Cleveland Indians?
        Charles Ebbets -
        Billy Evans -
        John B. Foster -
        Clark Griffith -
        Ned Hanlon -
        Garry Herrmann -
        John A. Heydler -
        Miller Huggins -
        Ban Johnson -
        Kick Kelly Was this supposed to be King Kelly?
        Bill Klem -
        Judge Kenesaw M. Landis -
        Ernest J. Lanigan -
        Fred Lieb -
        Connie Mack -
        Jimmy McAleer -
        John McGraw -
        Sid Mercer -
        Tim Murnane -
        Frank Navin -
        Harry Pulliam -
        Bob Quinn -
        Branch Rickey -
        Francis Richter -
        Damon Runyon -
        Jacob Ruppert -
        Frank Selee -
        John B. Sheridan -
        Ben Shibe -
        Charles Somers -
        J.G. Taylor Spink -
        George Stallings -
        Charles Stoneham -
        Chris von der Ahe -
        Nicholas E. Young -
        OK. This little project took me a whole morning to look up and track down. But I can't think of a more deserving member to give a morning to!

        Resident Fever Historian,
        Bill Burgess
        Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-08-2008, 12:01 PM.


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