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Beachville's Baseball Beginnings - Fact or Fiction?

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  • Beachville's Baseball Beginnings - Fact or Fiction?

    I found this on the Beachville (Ontario) District Museum website:

    The group of men who gathered in a Beachville pasture June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. It occurred one year prior to the famous Cooperstown game. Beachville's claim is based upon a Dr. Adam E. Ford's letter to "Sporting Life" magazine detailing the rules and recalling the names of various players. The two teams playing that day were the Beachville Club and the Zorras. The Zorras hailed from the north townships of Zorra and Oxford. The site selected for the chief event of rejoicing was the field just behind Enoch Burdick's shops, (today near Beachville's Baptist Church.)
    They followed up this paragraph with an even more outrageous statement:

    The importance of Ford's letter lies in the fact that it provides the first formally recorded account of baseball as a formal game.
    I have numerous problems with Beachville's claim as being the "birthplace" of baseball. The most glaring example... Doctor Adam Enoch Ford sent his letter to the "Sporting Life" magazine, April 26, 1886, 48 years after this supposed baseball game took place. No other records exist to support his claim so, I want to know, how can a letter written 48 years after the fact be the "first formally recorded account" like the District Museum claims? If he had written this letter in 1838, then I would give Beachville their due, but Ford was 7-years-old at the time... Is his story as fabricated as the Abner Graves’ 1905 Abner Doubleday myth?

  • #2
    The city continues to showcase signage and sell memorabilia based on Ford's outrageous claim (images courtesy of






    • #3
      An amazing article by John Thorn, noting the similarities between Adam Enoch Ford and Abner Graves:

      A Canadian Ball Game of 1838


      • #4
        There is absolutely nothing, like a public record or even another eyewitness, to back up Ford's claim... According to this article from The Trivia Guys, Randy Ray and Mark Kearney, Dr. Ford was not a reputable character:

        Finally, some aspects of Ford's personal life may have fueled controversy surrounding the letter. Because he was born in 1831 and only a youngster when the game was played, some have questioned how a boy could have remembered such specifics. And Ford was also involved in a sensational murder scandal in St. Marys, Ont in 1878, when a Robert Guest who was the secretary of the St. Marys Temperance Association died mysteriously after drinking in Ford's office. A coroner's inquest was held behind closed doors, and Ford was not brought to trial. However, the incident prompted his move to Denver in 1880. Ford supposedly had a history of alcohol and drug problems and died virtually destitute on May 17, 1906.
        Once again I ask, if no one bothered to write anything down until 1886, how can Beachville believably claim this was the first recorded game?


        • #5
          The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown doesn't even recognize Beachville's claim... From the Randy Ray and Mark Kearney article I quoted above:

          Although Ford's original letter is in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, officials there have never formally recognized the validity of his claim for Beachville.

          Baseball is often thought of as deriving from the English game of rounders, and there is evidence to suggest variations of baseball were played as long ago as the Colonial period in the U.S. Given the thousands of United Empire Loyalists who emigrated to Canada during and after the Revolution, it's likely some brought a form of baseball with them.


          • #6
            Author David Block writes these words in the comments section of the John Thorn article I posted earlier:

            I discussed my views of Dr. Ford’s letter in my book “Baseball before We Knew It” published in 2005. It is not credible to me that, 48 years after the fact, a person could recall such explicit details about an event he had witnessed when he was barely seven years of age. I believe that if there is any basis for what he wrote about the game itself, he must have obtained the information from another, as yet unidentified source. Relying upon uncorroborated reminiscences to document the occurrence of an early baseball event can be perilous, as evidenced by Abner Graves’ Doubleday-Cooperstown story.
            By David Block
            Also, check out the link below... Block discusses a recent discovery:

            Baseball Discovered


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