Can John Thorn Finally Erase Abner Doubleday?

Two days ago, Major League Baseball announced that it had hired John Thorn, an author and member of the Society for American Baseball Research, as its official historian. The position had been vacant since the 2008 death of Jerome Holtzman, the longtime Chicago sportswriter who invented the save stat. Thorn is a great choice: a historian who combines a sense of humor with a love for the game’s minutiae, his hiring is probably the best thing to come out of MLB’s press office all winter. But his hiring is good news for another reason: unlike Bud Selig, he doesn’t believe Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

Back in November, Selig caused a minor storm by sending an email to a baseball fan in which he wrote:

From all of the historians which I have spoken with, I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the ‘Father of Baseball.’ I know there are some historians who would dispute this, though.

In fact, it has been more than a century since baseball’s Mills Commission first credited Doubleday as the founder of baseball, and in the past hundred years essentially every credible baseball historian has disputed the old Doubleday story. Few have done so more prominently than Thorn, who was quoted in a New York Times article about the Selig letter. Thorn debunked Selig’s statement, though he soft-pedaled any criticism of Selig: “It’s merely odd that the commissioner believes this. It is surprising. I don’t think you can mistrust his other judgments.”

A member of SABR’s 19th Century Baseball Research Committee, Thorn has frequently written about the beloved but factually incorrect myths that underpin baseball’s beginnings. As he wrote in a biography of Doc Adams for the SABR Bio Project:

The history of baseball is a lie from beginning to end, from its creation myth to its rosy models of commerce, community, and fair play. The conventional tale of the game’s birth is substantially incorrect-not just the Doubleday fable, pointless to attack, but even the scarcely less legendary development of the Knickerbocker game, ostensibly sired by Alexander Cartwright…

The truth of the paternity question? Eighty-year-old Henry Chadwick had it right when he said in 1904, only one year before the formation of the Mills Commission, “Like Topsy, baseball never had no ‘fadder’; it jest growed.”

That captures a flavor of both his clear prose and his humor. More than a year before the creation of the OldHossRadbourn Twitter feed, Thorn spent a week in April 2008 writing a baseball advice blog in the voice of Abner Doubleday. (“Although he neglected to invent the game or even take an interest in it in all the days he walked the earth, in death Abner has become rather smitten. Who wouldn’t? All day long he swaps stories upstairs with the Babe, the Mick, Satchel … and even Alex Cartwright, with whom he has formed a cordial tandem.”)

Thorn’s list of credentials, not just on the early history of baseball, is long. He was the senior creative consultant for Ken Burns’s landmark documentary Baseball; Thorn’s latest book is a history of baseball’s early days, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, due to be released in two weeks. He was also the longtime co-editor with Pete Palmer of Total Baseball, a sabermetric landmark that later became adopted as the official encyclopedia of baseball. For all his contributions, SABR awarded him the Bob Davids award, given in honor of the founder. The child of Holocaust survivors, Thorn was born in a displaced persons camp in West Germany, and moved to the New York area when he was 2, where he fell in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, he lives in Saugerties, New York, just 90 miles away from Cooperstown.

He’s one of the good guys, a passionate baseball fan who is also one of the preeminent baseball scholars of his generation. He has enriched our understanding of baseball history for decades now. Maybe he can actually teach the commissioner a thing or two about the game, and stop baseball’s leadership from perpetuating the Doubleday myth into the 21st century.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

49 Responses to “Can John Thorn Finally Erase Abner Doubleday?”

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  1. Grant says:

    I’d love to see him dispel the myth that Cartwright’s Cooperstown game was the first modern game. In fact, the first modern game on record was played in Beachville, Ontario 7 years earlier. The nearby Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has a really neat display on the real origins of baseball, but unfortunately most fans south of the border are ignorant of that fact.

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    • rotofan says:

      Ignorance is a strange thing.

      The only recording of the so-called Beachville game was done by a doctor with serious drug and alcohol addictions who wrote of it for the first time 48 years after it supposedly happen in a letter — he had seen the supposed game when he was 7-years-old. The level of detail he claimed to recall is greater than what most people could recall of game the previous week. even sober people — Dr. Adam Ford battled alcohol and substance abuse.

      There have been countless Americans who have dispelled Cartwright and Doubleday. By comparison, Canadians have been much less willing to examine Ford’s claims critically – there has been only two attempts, to my knowledge. As someone who has lived on both sides of the border, I’m not surprised. There is so much more shared history south of the border that Americans, at least those with an intellectual bent, are more comfortable questioning elements of that history. Canadians are much more likely to mistake honest questioning with an attack on their national identity.

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      • Christopher Taylor says:

        I’m not sure what the ad hominem attack on Ford is supposed to show. Many addicts have wonderful memories and are quite truthful, but to call what Ford recorded baseball seems strange. It is closer to baseball than cricket and rounders, but still seems like a step in the evolution of the game.

        I also don’t understand the sentiment “an attack on their national identity”, Canada, almost famously so has no identity. In fact, hand-wring wrestling with what the Canadian identity is could probably considered the nation’s national pastime. The lack of critical examination of Ford’s claims almost certainly has everything to do with the number of professional and amateur historians that study Canadian versus American history.

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      • Grant says:

        I’d love to see your sources on this information, it’s absurd for the most part. Ford was born in 1919 and while he did battle alcoholism, he was a well respected doctor until a late age in Denver. You don’t keep that profession by losing your mind.

        At the hall of fame, there are artifacts from the game, and there is considerable information on the rules, the teams involved, the equipment, and much more. Much of the display has been derived from sources outside of Ford’s article. The significance of his article was that it brought attention to this historical first game of modern baseball.

        You’d be well served by actually researching the subject before dismissing it based on ‘facts’ you seemingly pulled out of thin air.

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      • rotofan says:

        Christopher Taylor:

        There have been countless studies showing a correlation between alcohol and drug addiction and memory loss. Here’s a summary on memory loss and its causes at the National Institutes of Health:
        http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003257.htm

        You seem convinced addicts have wonderful memory recall. Perhaps you can provide a link that support your assertion.

        Besides his lifelong addictions, the only other statement I made about Ford that he first wrote about his memory of something at age 7 nearly five decades later.

        What part of my statement constitutes an ad hominem attack? Is it politically incorrect to point out a strong link between drug and alcohol addiction and memory loss? Are historians now barred from pointing out how many decades have passed between the observations of a claimed eyewitness and his recording of those observations.

        You may very well be right that there are fewer professional and amateur historians that study Canadian baseball and history generally. No argument there.

        But I think it is rather silly to suggest that Canadians have no identity and I say that as someone who has spent the past 14 years living in Canada and writing about Canadians. How could there be such hand-wringing over national identity, as you say, if such identity simply didn’t exist? I stand by my observations: Canadians identify themselves but in ways that are less enveloping than do Americans, and as a result, are more insecure about that identity and more apt to react defensively when they believe that identity is attacked. Perhaps the most memorable commercial campaign of the past decade was Molson ‘I am Canadian.’

        Grant -

        (1) You provided not a single source for your claims but dismiss mine as “absurd”. Let me be the first, then, to provide a reference:

        “Baseball Before We Knew It” – David Block

        Block’s book received critical acclaim from reviewers ranging from professional historians, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times. The book also pointed out how precious little real historical research had been done into Ford’s claims.

        Here’s a second reference in which Ford’s claims were doubted:

        “Diamonds of the North” – William Humber (who was writing about the history of baseball in Canada)

        (2) If Ford was born in 1919, as you say, his capacity to remember events from the previous century is even more astounding. I realize that is a typo on your part, of course.

        (3) As for Ford himself, according to research by two academics at the University of Western Ontario, he was forced to flee Canada after a dead man who was a member of the temperance society was found in his doctor’s office. A closed-door inquiry did not find Ford guilty but he was forced to leave in a hurry.

        (4) I don’t think anyone doubts that a game of some sorts was played at Beachville. What is far less certain is that the game was of any significance in what was an evolution of European games towards modern baseball.

        (5) I’m guessing from your comments that your only research of Ford consists of visiting the Hall of Fame site in St Marys, a place that has a vested interest in promoting the claim that modern baseball was first played nearby. While I live a short drive from St Marys, I have also read the research of those who don’t have nearly as vested an interest.

        Now who, tell me, has need of doing some real research?

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      • rotofan says:

        Grant -

        One other thing, something that is especially relevant on a site such as this one. Block’s book was selected the year’s best (2006 Seymour Medal) by The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

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  2. Justin Bailey says:

    If he can erase the Doubleday myth, he should also be able to convince all the fundamentalist ninnies in this country that the earth is 4+ billion years old, not 6,000. It’s not easy to impart truth to someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      At this point in American society the easiest way to get a majority to oppose a statement is to begin: “Scientists believe that…”

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      • Llewdor says:

        Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

        – Isaac Asimov

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    • Captain Obvious says:

      Why make any sort of religous arguement where there clearly dosen’t need to be?

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Because both are creation myths that people cling to in the face of mountains of refuting evidence, perhaps?

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        It’s not a religious argument, it’s an argument that many people believe idiotic things. not all religious people are idiots, but the ones that believe the world is 6000 years old believe idiotic things.

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      • Justin Bailey says:

        Thank you, Kevin S. Cap’n, the irony of your name is just amazing to me right now.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Earth isn’t 6000 years old. I count 6022.

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    • pft says:

      Most of our history is based on myths, why should baseball be any different. Heck, even the interpretations of current events are mythical in nature.

      Both secular and religous folks are prone to myths. The former falls for the p-value fallalacy and other statistical deceipts and falsely believes his belief is based on scientific evidence, since it is presented by it’s secular equivalent of high priests (statisticians, scientists or government officials) with an agenda.

      In a world where critical thinking is rare, it’s pretty easy to get anyone, secular or religous, to believe anything so long as the source can be made to appear credible (eg, an appearance on Fox or CNN is enough for most folks). One of the biggest secular myths is that of global warming from mans CO2, that falls in the same mythical catergory of the creation theory where the planet and man is 6000 years old.

      As for baseball, the latest myths are that 2010 was the year of the pitcher (better pitching) and had nothing to do with the ball or streike zone, and that WAR based on 1 year of UZR can be reported with an accuracy to 1 decimal place, and that RBI’s do not mean anything when it comes to assessing MVP candidates..

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      • joser says:

        I don’t think there’s anything mythical about the assertion that RBIs do mean something when MVP candidates are assessed. The issue is that intelligent people generally agree that they shouldn’t. (Unless MVP candidates have some here-to-fore undetected ability to get other players on base.)

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Pft if you think that greenhouse gases have no effect on the climate of Earth, you are no different than those that question evolution or the age of the Earth.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        By the way, even Exxon Mobile admits that climate change is real: http://www.exxonmobil.com/corporate/safety_climate.aspx

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        And if you want to put forth an argument that both religious and secular individuals often fall to simplified explanations that obscure the truth, I suggest you read Chris Hedges. He’s written two books on the subject. One critical of religious fanatics and another critical of secular fanatics. A good summary of his views can be found here: http://www.alternet.org/rights/80449/

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      • Llewdor says:

        ExxonMobil has a financial interest in being on the right side of public opinion on the issue. Whether they claim the believe in anthropogenic global warming tells us nothing about their honest opinions. I’m sure that even they don’t think that their honest opinions matter.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Actually, no, Exxon Mobile has an invested interest in creating public opinion. Exxon, just like the tobacco industry twenty years ago, has billions of dollars in its coffers and employees some of the top scientists in the Universe. If there was a way to prove, scientifically, that increasing greenhouse gases doesn’t impact the climate through increased temperatures, atmospheric energy, acidification of the oceans, ect Exxon Mobile would be able to easily sway public opinion in their direction. Further, public opinion is already divided on this issue, for example pft blames secular mythology on hundreds of thousands of scientists finding evidence for the reality of climate change, so Exxon Mobile is not on the right side of ‘public opinion’ they are on the right side of ‘reality.’ The people that run Exxon Mobile are intelligent beings (not necessarily honest or moral, but intelligent none-the-less), I’d being willing to wager vast sums of money that most decision makers at the top of Exxon believe in the scientific consensus of climate change.

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      • Rex says:

        Somehow, someone went from the UTTERLY TRUE assertion that MAN-MADE CO2 has no effect on climate to saying “If you don’t believe that greenhouse gasses affect climate, you’re a moron” or something to that effect, without understanding (how could he really?) that these are two utterly different statements.

        If you do not understand:

        A: There never was a consensus on man-made global warming. It was trumped up by the UN using political hacks and a few kept scientists.

        B: There is something much closer to a consensus AGAINST the notion of man-made global warming, as 30,000 signatories by professionals expressing skepticism would indicate

        C: That water-vapor accounts for 95% of all the earth’s greenhouse effect, that CO2 accounts for less than 5% and that human beings account for about 1% of CO2.

        D: That random variations in water vapor overwhelm any human-produced CO2 accumulations and thus, logically, water should be the primary concern of global warming alarmists (aka, useful idiots). CO2 was only used because it is an essential life gas (and thus controlling it would yield unlimited opportunities for controlling people) that still has a scary-sounding name that propagandists can use against an appallingly ignorant public.

        E: That it has been demonstrated that Climate alarmists were fabricating evidence and engaging in reprehensible fraud and abuse.

        F: and on and on and God it goes on…

        then you are part of the ignorance problem, not the solution.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        A: First, the scientific debate on climate change dates back for more than 100 years, way before the UN was even an idea. Second, the UN has no powers except what its member nations give it, particularly the security council. Third, a scientific consensus does exist, as the following scientific bodies explicitly state: The American Academy of Sciences (along with 31 other such Academies), the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, European Physical Society, European Science Foundation, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the World Meteorological Organization, and countless others. Further there is NOT A SINGLE NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC BODY ON THE PLANET THAT DISAGREES WITH THE SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. Not even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

        B: You’re pulling my leg, right? You can’t actually believe the Oregon Petition is factual do you? Signatures on the document include: “Michael J. Fox”, “Robert C. Byrd”, and “John C. Grisham”. Many of signers are dead, duplicates, or fakes. Of the 1,400 signatures of actual experts (Phds with climate related degrees), Scientific American took a random sample of 30 and could only get 11 to say they agreed with the petition. And once more: NOT A SINGLE NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC BODY ON THE PLANET THAT DISAGREES WITH THE SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

        C: So? If you actually believe that statement then: 1) you agree that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases effect the Earth’s climate and 2) you should be concerned about the future of the Earth’s climate. Water vapor enters and exists the atmosphere through the hydrological cycle, which humans have basically no control on. EXCEPT by increasing other greenhouse gases, which warms the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere holds more water, and thus more GHG (H2O, CO2, ect)

        D: Once more, atmospheric concentrations of water vapor is regulated by the hydrological cycle. It is not random. The only way to get more water vapor into the atmosphere is to add more energy.

        E: No it hasn’t. Not a single inquiry has found any climate scientist guilty of misleading the public. The only thing that people jump on is that a scientist used the word ‘trick,’ which is a joke. How many times have you used the phrase: “Here let me show you the trick…” when explaining a seemly complicated task?

        F:And it does go on. For example: What is your thoughts on ocean acidification?

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      • Rex says:

        A. First, “climate change” formerly global warming, until the earth stopped warming, only became a “national crisis” in the past 10 years. Before that, there was a preparation period where it was in schoolbooks. When they had successfully (almost) indoctrinated a generation, they fabricated the crisis. By “they” I mean the UN and the big cartels who want carbon taxes.

        Second, most of the organizations you cite are dependent on grants and prostitute themselves willingly for them. The dissenters are individual scientists.

        B: You’re pulling my leg, right?…etc.

        Signatories also include Tim Ball and several other leading climatologists. And this petition clearly distinguishes between scientists and non-scientists, unlike the trumped up UN consensus, which even includes scientists who asked out and dissented. They didn’t bother because they are a propaganda operation.

        C: So? If you actually believe that statement then: 1) you agree that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases effect the Earth’s climate and 2) you should be concerned about the future of the Earth’s climate.

        1 does not imply 2 at all. That CO2 is a greenhouse gas and thus theoretically affects climate is undeniably true. That this effect is significant enough that it merits any passing concern, let alone constitutes a crisis, is undeniably false.

        D: Once more, atmospheric concentrations of water vapor is regulated by the hydrological cycle. It is not random. The only way to get more water vapor into the atmosphere is to add more energy.

        Please, pleeeease tell me that you understand the difference between “random” and “subject to random variance”. All geological systems, all systems of any kind that I can think of, are subject to systematic regulation and some degree of random variance within it. There is nothing in the universe that is 100% predetermined.

        E: No it hasn’t. Not a single inquiry has found any climate scientist guilty of misleading the public. The only thing that people jump on is that a scientist used the word ‘trick,’ which is a joke. How many times have you used the phrase: “Here let me show you the trick…” when explaining a seemly complicated task?

        You quite simply have not read the emails in the original context (assuming that you are arguing in good faith which I do not have any reason to doubt). If you read the emails in their original context, you find that these charlatans do everything short of the evil cackle of Mumra. “Hide the decline” might ring a bell. Or the repeated allusions of attacking dissenting voices or referring to publications that they “control”. It is to be expected that Penn State would not undertake an investigation of their most corrupt, politically connected (and therefore grant producing) science professor. But you don’t need formal investigations for what your eyes can tell you plainly. Only dishonesty or ignorance can account for exonerating climategate. Not even idiocy is an excuse, since any honest person smart enough to tie his own shoes can detect the intent to defraud in those emails.

        F:And it does go on. For example: What is your thoughts on ocean acidification?

        Barely relevant if at all. I do not doubt that there are real problems with the environment. That is the tragedy of the climate change hoax. It distracts energy and resources from real problems.

        You seem like someone with real intellectual curiosity and integrity. This means you are guaranteed, upon the first serious scrutiny of your current opinions and biases, to concede that climate change induced by manmade CO2 was the most elaborate scientific hoax of all time. If you have any curiosity, intellectual honesty or integrity at all, it’s just a matter of time, regardless of your position now. It is truly “settled science”.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Come on Rex, come back to reality, please. Conspiracies are fun to believe in, but ultimately dangerous.

        Where did this nomenclature myth start? Climate Change has been the preferred term in most scientific literature for more than 40 years. From a 1979 President’s Council on Environmental Quality report: “The possibility of global climate change induced by an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the subject of intense discussion and controversy among scientists.” Your nefarious UN (again which has no powers other than those designated to it by its member nations and approved by the security council) set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the late 80s. A simple Google Scholar search shows this to be the case as well. Further, in what universe has the climate been cooling? We just got out of the warmest decade on record and 2010 was the warmest year on record.

        As for funding, the argument is completely bizarre. Basically you believe that every major industry, government, university, organization, and institution is conspiring to prevent scientific research from occurring. The oil industry has made more than one trillion dollars in profits in the past decade (profit not revenue). The US Chamber of Commerce has spent hundreds of millions in membership money in lobbying against climate legislation. Canada is aggressively developing its tarsands. China is building a new coal plant a couple times a week. The Middle East is producing billions of dollars worth of oil a month. Yet no one wants to fund research that proves that CO2 has no harmful effect on the climate? I don’t buy it. Again, not a single national or international scientific body disputes the modern conception of climate change. Even the organizations that receive most of their funding from the OIL industry do not dispute it. Further your argument reverses history. It was the Goddard Institute at NASA that lost its funding during the Reagan administration for conducting research that showed the relationship between CO2 and climate. If there ever was a signal for where researchers should look for funding, that’s a fairly clear one. As for a worldwide conspiracy that has infiltrated every level of scientific research, they sure haven’t gotten much in return. Seems like a lot of work for only being able to have CFLs replace incandescent lightbulb. Further, the scientists involved have been investigated by many inquiries, including governmental. Not one has found a single bit of evidence that any scientist lied about anything.

        Again, you don’t seem to understand the hydrologic cycle. There are no major random variations in the cycle for a simple reason: the average life of a water molecule in the atmosphere is ten days. There is an upper bound of how much water can be in the atmosphere, once the atmosphere is saturated it rains. Water vapor is a climate feedback, not a climate forcing.

        The ‘hide the decline’ is the same thing I was discussing in my last post. I haven’t read every email and I doubt you have either, so please don’t pretend that you understand the larger context of some nefarious plot. The discussion was centered on a completely transparent ‘trick’ in which real temperatures were added to a series of temperature reconstructions based on tree rings. The ‘decline’ was already discussed in peer reviewed papers and is well known. It refers to the fact that tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after the 1960s and actually has a name (so discussed is it in actual scientific papers) of the divergence problem. The authors of the original tree ring paper have always maintained that researchers should not use their data post-1960. This entire debate has been occurring in published papers for more than a decade. Other than that, your claims about what are found in the emails are completely false. The idea of Michael Mann as ‘politically connected’ made me laugh out loud.

        Ocean acidification is directly linked to climate change and is a result of increased CO2 absorption by the ocean.

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      • Rex says:

        As I said, if you are honest, you’ll get it eventually. The people who still scoff at “conspiracy theories” are people who still do not understand the way the world works and believe what they read by the learned individuals at CNN and the NYT and who write the schoolbooks.

        I will not continue to argue that the world is round and goes around the sun against the people who believe the absurdities of Caesar’s honorable men who claim otherwise

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Fine you can continue to live in ignorance and paranoia. The world will pass you by.

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    • fredsbank says:

      i <3 you

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  3. Kimbal says:

    There are literary references to baseball in England long before any game was played in Canada. The country that favors Cricket was also the one in which Rounders was invented and imported to the new world. Rounders was the forerunner of Baseball and Baseball is a cousin to Cricket through Rounders. We should understand that Baseball as we know it was not played in the 19th Century, because the rules and common practices were very different. The so-called modern game did not come about until batters were not calling for pitches and it ceased to be a pastime and became a competitive sport. Then it underwent a sea change with the death of Ben Chapman, as new white balls led the way to the popularization of the home run (Babe Ruth) and did away with some of the shenanigans of old-time pitchers. The game became less about tricks and more about skills.

    Although Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a bad man, frankly, a racist through and through, and his act of disgracing eight men in the Black Sox case meant that a couple of innocents were defamed, that incident helped end the aura of gambling that dominated the early 20th Century. Read what Bill James has written about Hal Chase sometime. Wicked men like Cap Anson and KM Landis and Ty Cobb kept the color line drawn until Branch Rickey decided to shatter it with men like Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. Once men of all colors and nationalities were allowed to participate, baseball did truly become a mature game of strong competition and skills. Mr. Thorn is perfect in his new role and I can think of no one better!

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    • Josh says:

      Maybe after Thorn tackles the Doubleday myth, he can knock down the “Cap Anson created the color barrier” myth. Robert Peterson knocked that one down 40 years ago in “Only the Ball Was White” yet people still repeat it like it’s gospel.

      Cap Anson was a nasty racist. He often refused to play against black players, although other times he didn’t. But he wasn’t an owner and he had no power to create or enforce any color barrier.

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    • Mick says:

      I coulda sworn that Ty Cobb always talked quite favorably about the Negro Leagues an their players…

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    • DCLawyer68 says:

      I’d be a little less judgmental than you. Imposing our knowledge upon people who lived in a very different time is its own form of ignorance. Save the “wicked this” and “wicked that” and try to understand the world they were born into a little more clearly.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Spare me the moral relativity. Certain actions and beliefs are morally repugnant no matter what. The treatment of blacks by a majority of Americans for most of our history is disgusting and excusing it as ‘a very different world’ is bullshit. There were plenty of people that realized that the treatment of blacks was abhorrent, and only ignorance and greed prevented those like Cobb and Anson from acting otherwise.

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  4. Tim says:

    If this guy is so smart, maybe he can be the force that makes WAR a standard stat. Smh

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  5. Buford says:

    I wish all the historians who told Selig that Doubleday invented baseball would go on record and explain their stance. I would love to hear their “world is flat” findings.

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  6. Dealer A says:

    I just watched a rerun of The Simpsons in which Jebediah Springfield is uncovered to be a fraud by Lisa and the local museum historian. It sort of reminds me of the history of baseball. The truth is out there for those who are interested, but for everyone else Doubleday is just easier.

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  7. Dealer A says:

    But like you say, “every credible baseball historian has disputed the old Doubleday story”. I know the truth and you know the truth. In my eyes who Selig chooses to believe invented baseball should really have no real bearing on the decisions he is making as commissioner. If his job were to write the history of baseball, we might be in concerned, but I tend to agree with Thorn, “I don’t think you can mistrust his other judgments.”

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  8. Carl Mays says:

    Facts are stubborn things. It was Ray Chapman that I beaned, you knucklehead. Kudos to John, he is indeed the Grand Poobah of the Toy Department.

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  9. joser says:

    Do we really care what Selig thinks, at least in this regard? What he thinks when it comes to PEDs or labor relations or revenue sharing or divisional alignment or a whole host of other things may matter a great deal to the game. When it comes to history, he’s just another ignorant and/or deluded old man. Every bar in the country has at least one guy like that, and it is best to just ignore them until they go back to their drinks.

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  10. merizobeach says:

    Personally, I have distrusted Selig since he became commissioner, and I have despised him since 1994. I hope that history’s recollection of Selig will focus on the fact the he is the only commissioner in the game to have allowed the cancellation of a World Series. There has not been another commissioner with such a record of negligent incompetence.

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    • johng says:

      I always thought it was the point of having a commissioner…to shrug helplessly while the owners tried to steal money from the players.

      Bowie Kuhn was a moron. Uberoth goaded the owners into collusion.

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  11. Kimbal says:

    I am officially a moron for making that mistake, Carl Mays. You of all people should remember who you beaned. But I will stand by Cap Anson as the prime mover of segregating baseball, as he refused to play his team against any team with a black player and instigated a boycott that other players joined in with, thus forcing the hand of ownership…would they toss out the black players or tell stars like Anson to take a hike? They folded.

    WAR and OPS+ and other cool stats are the norm for SABR folks, no reason that baseball shouldn’t catch on and catch up.

    Ty Cobb hated just about everyone and was supposedly a strong racist. I thought it was Babe Ruth who often said that there were black ballplayers who were equal to some of the best major leaguers? No matter, once the owners agreed and had a commissioner who preferred whites only we needed Landis to go away and someone with vision like Rickey to fix the situation. I neglected to mention the Cleveland Indians and Larry Doby, who was the first black player in the AL and joined the majors not long after Robinson. Robinson appeared in April and Doby showed up in July of the same year, 1947. Bill Veeck deserves his due as the first American League owner to play a black athlete in the 20th Century. Rickey and Veeck, two great baseball giants, who were the spearheads of the desegregation movement.

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  12. Buford says:

    If Selig said Doubleday didn’t invent baseball in Cooperstown, then he would have to answer the questions “When are you going to move the Hall of Fame to a deserving city since Cooperstown is part of the Doubleday sham? You don’t want the Hall of Fame remaining in Cooperstown as a monument to the Doubleday lie… do you Mr. Commissioner?

    There is no way Selig wants discussions to go there.

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    • Breadbaker says:

      The Hall of Fame is an independent institution. The commissioner can move franchises faster than he can move the Hall of Fame. The person with the greatest ability to affect the Hall of Fame is the Attorney General of New York, who ain’t allowing it to move anytime soon.

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      • Baseball can have founding myths while still acknowledging historical research. The question of whether Abner Doubleday invented baseball is not open. It is settled. Nonetheless, Cooperstown HAS had a long, glorious place in baseball history, and I’m happy to keep the Hall of Fame there. Upstate New York is gorgeous.

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      • Buford says:

        Baseball could simply could open a “True Baseball Hall of Fame” in a deserving city and reclaim the baseball memorabilia from Cooperstown voluntarily or through court order.

        Since it’s known that Doubleday and Cooperstown have nothing to do with the invention of baseball, even the NY Attorney General couldn’t stop the eventual relocation of the memorabilia which belongs to baseball and not any one city.

        Maybe some commissioner after Selig will have the guts to rectify this egregious error.

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  13. Buford says:

    “Baseball can have founding myths while still acknowledging historical research.”

    “Cooperstown HAS had a long, glorious place in baseball history”

    ANY city that would have been the home of the Hall of Fame for all these years would have had a long, glorious place in baseball history.

    This is not about letting some cute myth go on living. It’s about correcting a blatant a lie that houses memories of the immortals of the game… no matter how gorgeous upstate NY is.

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