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Baseball Origin Controversy

Based on old American folklore, baseball's storied invention was by a young West Point cadet named Abner Doubleday. In the summer of 1839, in Cooperstown, New York, Doubleday supposedly started the game of baseball. Because of numerous types of baseball, or rather games similar to it, the origin of the game has been disputed for decades by sports historians all over the world. In 1839, in Cooperstown, New York, Doubleday supposedly started the game of baseball. Doubleday, also a famous Union general during the Civil War, was said to be the inventor of baseball by Abner Graves, an elderly minor from New York. In response to the question of where baseball first originated, major league owners summoned a committee in 1907. Abner Graves stepped before the committee and gave his testimony. In Graves' account of "the first game," the Otsego Academy and Cooperstown's Green's Select School played against one another in 1839. Committeeman Albert G. Spalding, the founder of Spalding's Sporting Goods, favored Graves' declaration and convinced the other committeemen that Grave's account was true. As a result, in 1939, the committee and the State of New York named Cooperstown and Abner Doubleday as the birthplace and the inventor.

Today, many baseball historians still doubt the testimony of Abner Graves. Historians say the story came from the creative memory of one very old man and way spread by a super patriotic sporting goods manufacturer, determined to prove that baseball was a wholly American invention. According to Doubleday's diary, he was not plying baseball in Cooperstown, but attending school at West Point on that day in 1839. Also, historians have found that nowhere in Doubleday's diary has he ever "claimed to have had anything to do with baseball, and may never have even send a game." this leads many to the conclusion that Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball, but it is still a disputed and active issue. Sports Historians have presented impressive evidence showing that American baseball, far from being an independent invention, evolved out of various ball and stick games that had been played in many areas of the world since the beginning of recorded history. But in early America, precursors of baseball included informal games of English origin such as paddleball, trap ball, rounders, and town ball. The latter was a popular game in colonial New England and was played by adults and children with a bat and ball on an open field.

Printed references to "base ball" in America date back to the eighteenth century. Among these accounts is one of Albigence Waldo, a surgeon with George Washington's troops at Valley Forge who told stories of soldiers batting balls and running bases in their free time. Similarly in 1834 Robin Carver's Book of Sports related that an American version of rounders called "base" or "goal ball" was rivaling cricket in popularity among Americans. Indeed, cricket played a role in the evolution or organized baseball. From this British game came umpires and innings, and early baseball writers like Henry Chadwick used cricket terminology such as "batsman", "playing for the side", and "excellent field" in describing early baseball games. Likewise, the pioneer baseball innovator Harry Wright, a cricket professional turned baseball manager, drew heavily on his cricket background in promoting baseball as a professional team sport in the United States.

By the 1840's various forms of baseball vied for acceptance, including the popular Massachusetts and New York versions of the game. The Massachusetts game utilized an irregular four-sided field of play, with four bases located at fixed, equidistance from each other and the "striker's" or batter's position away from the home base. "Scouts," or fielders, put men out by fielding a batted ball on the fly or on the first bounce, or by hitting a runner with a thrown ball. But this version of the game was overshadowed in the late 1840's by the "New York game," a popular version of which was devised by the members of the New York Knickerbockers Club. Organized in 1845 by a band of aspiring gentlemen and baseball enthusiasts, the Knickerbockers version was devised by one their members, Alexander J. Cartwright. Cartwright prescribed a diamond-shaped infield with bases at 90 feet apart, a standard still used today. the pitching distance was set at 45 feet from the home base, and a pitcher was required to "pitch" a ball in a stiff-armed, underhanded fashion. The three-strikes-are-out rule was adopted, and a batter could also be put out by a fielder catching a batted ball in the air, or on the first bounce, or by thawing a fielded ball to the first baseman before the runner arrived. Other innovations included the nine man team and three outs ending a team's batting in their half on an inning. Thus Cartwright's version of baseball became the basis of the game as presently played. Over the years, other innovations were added, including the nine inning standard for games, changes in the pitching distance, and so on. On June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey, the first organized baseball game was played by the New York Nine and the New York Knickerbockers.

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