It’s True (We Think): Did Abner Doubleday Really Invent Baseball?

While Abner Doubleday was no doubt a stand-up guy, one of the claims on a New York State historical marker outside his birthplace in Ballston Spa is most certainly untrue. Besides noting that he was a Civil War hero who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, it also says that he founded the game of baseball 24 years prior in 1839. Yes, Doubleday was indeed born at 28 Washington Street in B-Spa on June 26, 1819; a major general in the Union Army; and a hero at Gettysburg. Inventor of baseball, though? Not so much.

The story goes that, a decade and a half after Doubleday’s death, a special commission created by A.G. Spalding sought to investigate baseball’s origins. Unwilling to accept the fact that “America’s Pastime” evolved from English-born games such as cricket and rounders, the commission took the word of a Colorado mining engineer that Doubleday came up with the game in Cooperstown in 1839. In reality, Doubleday was 140 miles away at West Point and died not knowing he would be immortalized as the founder of baseball.

Baseball’s founding myth was almost immediately debunked, but that hasn’t stopped Doubleday from posthumously attaining celebrity status in the baseball world and superstar status in Ballston Spa: The Brookside Museum even hosted a 200th birthday party for the late general in 2019. Because, founder of baseball or not, Doubleday was a bona fide war hero and a man any town would be proud to call its own.  

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