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Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007 at 4:04 PM
barrysloate  (Login barrysloate)

 
Okay, here is a topic just for fun:

Alexander Cartwright, Henry Chadwick, and Harry Wright have all at one time been called "the Father of Baseball." But we can all have only one daddy. So who is best deserving that title?

I think it is Harry Wright. Wright was a player starting in the late 1850's; in 1869 he formed the first professional baseball team, which changed the face of the game forever; when the National Association was formed, he managed the finest franchise in the league and won four championships (1872-75); when the National League was formed he managed Boston, Providence, and Philadelphia for nearly twenty years; and he copiously kept acccurate records of nearly every aspect of the professional game, best illustrated in the yearly scorebooks he preserved for close to fifteen years.

Any other differing opinions?

 
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Dan Bretta
(Login slidekellyslide)
Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 4:32 PM 

I won't argue with you Barry as I've no doubt you know more about the early game than I do, but didn't Cartwright lay down most of the dimensions of the game? I gotta think that the guy who came up with 90 ft between bases and nine guys to a side is the "father of baseball".

Maybe we could call Wright the father of Professional baseball?

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 5:33 PM 

There is no question that the contribution of the Knickerbocker BBC was significant. What is less clear is Cartwright's role. He may have been integral in organizing the club, but it is now believed that others had a bigger part in refining many of the rules of the game. We just aren't sure.

And Cartwright headed west in 1849, and his days of playing competitive ball were basically behind him.

Yes, Wright was the father of professional baseball, but his contributions to the game in total were greater than Cartwright's...I think.

 
 
Corey R. Shanus
(Login benjulmag)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 5:50 PM 

The problem with calling Harry Wright the father of baseball is that the game was basically developed by the time Wright began playing. Yes, Wright did a lot toward bringing professionalism out in the open and toward developing the first professional league. But that had little if anything to do with the rules by which the game was played. As to who had the most to do with those rules, my vote would be the Knickerbockers because they codified the precise rules under which the game was to be played. While perhaps one could argue that every rule they adopted had at one time been seen before, but it was the precise combination and publication of these "existant" individual rules that became baseball as we know it today. As to which rule was the most significant, in my view it was the rule codifying fair and foul territory. That allowed baseball to become a spectator sport, which was the engine behind its explosive growth.

So if we're now talking about the Knickerbockers as being the most important force behind the development of the game, which Knickerbocker was most instrumental to the organization of the Club and the development of the Knickerbocker rules? While reasonable people can differ on this one, certainly Cartwight would be on anyone's short list of candidates. And certainly Chadwick and Wright would not. So among Wright, Chadwick and Cartwright, my vote would be Cartwright.

EDITED to add that if the Veterans Committee wanted to find a more constructive use of their time, they might spend less time looking at what the likes of Bowie Kuhn ever did and more toward some of the contributions of some of the original Knickerbockers (e.g., Adams, Curry, Tucker, Wheaton).


    
This message has been edited by benjulmag on Dec 18, 2007 5:55 PM


 
 

Dan Bretta
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Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 5:53 PM 

I think you can be the "father" of something and still have less contribution to the overall history.

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 6:07 PM 

Corey- I half agree with you.

The contribution of the Knickerbocker BBC, as the sum of its members, was monumental. But which members were most instrumental? Doc Adams? Will Wheaton? Duncan Curry? or was it actually Cartwright himself?

Rob Lifson just emailed me a link to an article written by John Thorn, and his basic premise is that Cartwright's contribution to the game is vastly overrated.

I do agree Wright should more aptly be called the Father of the Professional Game, since he is considerably younger than the other two. But I question exactly what role Cartwright had during his brief tenure with the club (1845-49).

Edited to add while I was typing you added something important, too.


    
This message has been edited by barrysloate on Dec 18, 2007 6:09 PM


 
 

Dan Bretta
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Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 6:26 PM 

When was the term "Cartwright rules" first used? and by Whom?

 
 
Corey R. Shanus
(Login benjulmag)

Barry

December 18 2007, 6:31 PM 

A point worth mentioning is that just because the Knickerbockers did not formally organize until 1845, that does not mean that they did not play baseball together before then. Logically, they had to. It's hard to fathom that those guys met one day and organized a baseball club the next. Almost certainly they had been playing together for some time. So I don't think its entirely accurate to describe Cartwright's association as being only four years.

 
 

Dan Bretta
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Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 6:45 PM 

Here is a good article dispelling some of the myths surrounding Cartwright.. Much of this is a surprise to me, but I have to say that I've not studied Cartwright and have in the past always accepted the Hall of Fame's stance on AJC.

http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&pid=2205&bid=727

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 6:55 PM 

Corey- I think you are right. If I remember correctly, they started meeting several times a week in Murray Hill around 1842, but I think their activities were largely disorganized. They decided at some point that finding some competitive sport to play would be more worthwhile. So clearly by the time they codified the first set of rules on September 23, 1845, they had to have been already playing baseball for months.

But it was during that trial period that they determined the rules of baseball as they were known to that point were insufficient. My theory, and others too, feel it may have been more of a joint effort and not solely the invention of Alexander Cartwright.

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 6:58 PM 

Dan- I skimmed that article and it is a very good one. What is clear is many members of the club had a hand in revising the rules of baseball, changing it from a child's game to one enjoyed by adults. Nobody knows with certainty, however, who did what.

 
 

Dan Bretta
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Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:21 PM 

Does anyone know who coined the term "Cartwright rules"? That seems to me like it would be a point worth noting, and may have an explanation as to why that term was used.

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:33 PM 

Dan- I have no idea who coined that term, but it appears to be something current.

There is even some question as to why Cartwright is in the Hall of Fame (isn't everyone questioned these days?). His grandson, Bruce Cartwright, traveled to Hawaii around 1912, and began an aggressive campaign to get some recognition for his famous grandfather. That may explain how the Cartwright myth may have been overblown.

 
 
Gary Passamonte
(Login GaryPassamonte)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:42 PM 

Barry,

If George Washington can be the "Father of our Country", I guess Harry Wright can be the "Father of Baseball".

 
 
Corey R. Shanus
(Login benjulmag)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:51 PM 

I don't think there is any question that Cartwright was part of a group effort and that others in group made similarly large contributions to the organization of the Club and the development of their rules. And if Cartwright is in the HOF, then very compelling arguments could be made that some of other original Knickerbockers should be there too.

 
 

Dan Bretta
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Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:53 PM 

Barry, it does seem a contradiction in the Hall of Fame's early beginnings that they inducted Cartwright, but not Doubleday, but they did name their baseball field after Doubleday. I guess the evidence for Doubleday which is nonexistent and based only on Spalding's nationalistic wishes that the game have its roots in America was enough for the Hall of Fame to go with the Cartwright story which does have some merit...and it's quite possible that AJC was an integral part of the modern games origins. Seems to me that the Hall honoring Doubleday in a different way was to keep those that subscribed to Spalding's "findings" happy.

In short what my rambling is trying to say was that perhaps the Hall's induction of Cartwright was somewhat a reactionary move.

 
 
Anonymous
(Login jerms14)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 7:57 PM 

Doc Adams should be in the HOF for inventing the shortstop at the very least

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 8:11 PM 

Dan- it is undeniable that Cartwright made a real contribution to the game's early history, and that the Doubleday myth is one of the great travesties of American history, baseball or otherwise. Cartwright was a founding member of the KBBC, he had strong organizational skills which he put to good use when the club was formed, he was an officer of the club, and he clearly contributed to the formation of the early rules.

But I also think it was a group effort, and the Hall of Fame could once get it right if they considered some of the other members too. No organization can survive and grow with only a single individual making a contribution. I'm sure much discussion went into writing that first constitution, and Cartwright surely didn't do it by himself.

In fact John Thorn believes that Doc Adams was a much more important figure in the Knickerbocker history. But his name is only familiar to the most ardent baseball historian. It's fascinating that baseball got its history wrong with the Doubleday myth, then got it wrong to a lesser degree again by anointing Cartwright the creator of the game. Maybe they will never get it exactly right.


    
This message has been edited by barrysloate on Dec 18, 2007 8:12 PM


 
 

Dan Bretta
(Login slidekellyslide)
Network 54 Moderator

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 8:19 PM 

Perhaps the myth is the beauty of baseball. I mean who really cares about the invention of basketball where it is pretty clearly known that Naismith was asked to devise an indoor game and he based it on a childhood game he learned in Canada. No romance there.

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Re: Who is the Real Father of Baseball?

December 18 2007, 8:26 PM 

That's a very poetic way of putting it, valuing the myth over the reality.

But we are baseball historians, and it has to rile you at least a little bit when you realize that baseball is America's pastime, and has been for nearly 150 years, yet they can't even get its creation right.

It's as if Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, but they decided to credit Mark Twain instead. It makes no sense.

 
 
 
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