MLB Origins Committee

“In March 2011, Major League Baseball established an accomplished panel of 12 experts and historians that will seek to determine the facts of baseball’s beginnings and its evolution. The Committee will compile and evaluate information that pertains to the game’s founding and its growth.

Following the study period, the panel will seek to tell the story of baseball’s beginnings and explore not only the game’s broadest origins, but also its development in local communities. John Thorn, the Official Historian of Major League Baseball, serves as chairman.”

The MLB Origins Committee

Doc Adams References can be found here – search for the following references (within the parenthesis). Excerpts are below.

1839 – Doc Adams Enters the Field (1839c.6)

“Adams, known to all as ‘Doc,’ began to play baseball in 1839. “I was always interested in athletics while in college and afterward, 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 . . . . The players included merchants, lawyers, Union Bank clerks, insurance clerks, and others who were at liberty after 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”

From John Thorn, “Doc Adams” in the SABR Biography Project. See http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&bid=639&pid=16943, accessed 12/5/2008. The source for the quoted material, offered when Adams was 81years old, is “Dr. D. L. ADAMS; Memoirs of the Father of Base Ball; He Resides in New Haven and Retains an Interest in the Game,” The Sporting News, February 29, 1896. Caveat: the year that Adams began playing is not clear. We know that he finished medical school in Boston in 1838, and he recalls that he next began to practice and that “soon after going” to NYC he began to play. [Email from John Thorn, 2/9/2008.]

1840 – Doc Adams Plays a Ball Game in NYC He [Later] Understands to be Base Ball (1840.1)

D.L. Adams plays a game in New York City that he understands to be base ball, “…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.” The game played by Adams was the same as that played by the men who would become the Knickerbockers. The game was played with an indeterminate number of men to the side, although eight was customary.

Adams, Daniel L, “Memoirs of the Father of Base Ball,” Sporting News, February 29, 1896. Per Sullivan, p.14. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 13-18. Note: the Sullivan extract does not mention 1840; it there another reference that does? John Thorn – email of 12/4/2008 – suggests that the game employed a four-base configuration, not the five bases and square configuration in other games. “The polygonal field sometimes ascribed to the later pre-Knickerbocker players was the likely standard prior to 1830.”

Last Updated: March 18, 2012

1845 – Knicks Play First Recorded [Intramural] Games By The New Rules (1845.2)

In an intrasquad game, seven Knickerbocker players win 11-8 over seven of their fellows; the umpire is William R. Wheaton, a pioneering cricket and base ball player of the New York Base Ball Club who helped to formulate the Knickerbocker rules. This is the first recorded game employing the newly crafted Knickerbocker rules.

Per John Thorn, 6/15/04: Controversy — one game is played in September 1845 (no precise date, with 42 runs scored from 18 men playing. Another game is played on October 6; seven to the side, with 19 runs scored. Source: Harold Peterson.

Per John Thorn, 7/704: on November 18, 1845. Two sides were chosen, by William R. Wheaton and William H. Tucker, and the “Wheatons” won, 51-42 in ten innings’ play. In an era when 21 aces meant a win, there must have been several tie scores at the ends of previous innings … or, conceivably, both teams were shy of 21 until the final inning and then exploded. Wheaton’s side included Adams, Cone, Talman, Turney, Dupignac, Morgan, Turk, Jones, and Burritt. Tucker’s side was comprised of Moncrief, W. O’Brien, Cartwright, Birney, Niebuhr, Curry, DeBost, Suydan, and I. O’Brien. This was the last practice game of 1845. Henry Chadwick ,National Daily Base Ball Gazette, April 24, 1887

Last Updated: March 12, 2012

1845 – Doc Adams, Ballmaker: The Hardball Becomes Hard (1845c.15)

The Knickerbockers developed and adopted the New York Game style of baseball in September 1845 in part to play a more dignified game that would attract adults. The removal of the “soaking” rule allowed the Knickerbockers to develop a harder baseball that was more like a cricket ball. Gilbert, “The Birth of Baseball”, Elysian Fields, 1995, pp. 16- 17.

Dr. D.L. Adams of the Knickerbocker team stated that he produced baseballs for the various teams in New York in the 1840s and until 1858, when he located a saddler who could do the job. He would produce the balls using 3 to 4 oz of rubber as a core, then winding with yarn and covering with leather. Dr. D.L. Adams, “Memoirs of the Father of Baseball,” Sporting News, February 29, 1896. Sullivan reprints this article in Early Innings, A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908, pages 13-18.

Item submitted by Rob Loeffler, 3/1/07. See “The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872,” March 2007.

Last Updated: March 12, 2012

1849 – Doc Adams Creates Modern Shortstop Position (1849.2)

D.L. Adams (see entry for 1840) invents the position of shortstop by moving the fourth outfielder into the infield.

Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, Club Books 1854-1868, from the Albert G. Spalding Collection of Knickerbocker Base Ball Club’s Club Books, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Linkage per John Thorn, 6/15/04, citation Per Gushov, p. 167. Also described in John Thorn, “Daniel Lucas Adams (Doc),” in Frederick Ivor-Campbell, et. al, eds., Baseball’s First Stars [SABR, Cleveland, 1996], page 1.

Last Updated: March 12, 2012

1857 – Rules Modified to Specify Nine Innings, 90-Foot Base Paths, Nine-Player Teams (1857.1)

“The New York Game rules are modified by a group of 16 clubs who send representatives to meetings to discuss the conduct of the New York Game. The Knickerbocker Club recommends that a winner be declared after seven innings but nine innings are adopted instead upon the motion of Lewis F. Wadsworth. The base paths are fixed by D.L. Adams at 30 yards – the old rule had specified 30 paces and the pitching distance at 15 yards. Team size is set at nine players.” The convention decided not to eliminate bound outs, but did give fly outs more weight by requiring runners to return to their bases after fly outs.

Spirit of the Times, January 31, 1857. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 122-24. For a full account of the convention, see Frederick Ivor-Campbell, “Knickerbocker Base Ball: The Birth and Infancy of the Modern Game,” Base Ball, Volume 1, Number 2 (Fall 2007), pages 55-65.

Roger Adams writes that the terms “runs” and “innings” first appear in the 1857 rules, as well as the first specifications of the size and wieghtr of the base ball. R. Adams, “Nestor of Ball Players,” found in typescript in the Chadwick Scrapbooks. Facsimile contributed by Bill Ryczek, December 29, 2009.

Last Updated: March 18, 2012

1860 – NABBP Refines Rules on the Ball (1860.21)

For the third year, the Convention put the elimination of the bound rule to a vote, and again the bound rule won, 55-37. The Association’s own Rules and Regulaitons Committee, chaired by Doc Adams, had favored a move to the fly rule for fair balls. Membership had reached nearly 80 clubs from as far away as Michigan. New York Herald, 3/18/1860.

The National Association of Baseball Players rules now specify that “The ball must weigh not less than five and three-fourths, nor more than six ounces avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and three-fourths, nor more than ten inches in circumference. It must be composed of India rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.” 1860 National Association of Baseball Players, Rules and Regulations Adopted by the National Association of Baseball Players – New York, March 14th 1860. This source is available at:

http://wiki.vbba.org/index.php/Rules/1860 Query: what changes are made in adopting this rule? Is the ball a bit larger?

1860.22 – Routledge’s “Ball Games” Depicts Simplified Form of Stoolball

“This is an old English sport, mentioned by Gower and Chaucer, and was at one period common to women as well as men. In the Northern parts of England, particularly in Yorkshire, it is practiced in the following manner: – A stool being set upon the ground, one of the players takes his place before it, while his antagonist, standing at a distance, tosses a ball, with the intention of striking the stool. It is the former player’s business to prevent this, by striking it away with the hand, reckoning one to the game for every stroke of the ball; if, on the contrary, it should be missed by the hand, and hit the stool, the players change places. The conqueror of the game is he who strikes the ball most times before it touches the stool.”

Ball Games [George Routledge, New York, ], pp 61-62. The copy of this book at MCC is annotated “c1860” in hand. Note: This game, having only two players, no bat, no running, is highly simplified. It does not appear to reflect knowledge of the more evolved Sussex play at about this period. A cursory Google search reveals no stoolball reference in Geoffrey Chaucer or his contemporary John Gower; but then, spelling is a big issue, right?

Last Updated: March 12, 2012