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Bud Selig Thinks Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball. Of Course He Does.

Illustration for article titled Bud Selig Thinks Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball. Of Course He Does.

Is there a better summation of the Bud Selig Era than the fact that the man himself recently declared in a letter, "I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the 'Father of Baseball'"?


This comes from a note the commissioner sent to autograph expert Ron Keurajian, who, per Hauls of Shame, "is putting the finishing touches on his upcoming book about Baseball Hall of Famer autographs and was asking Selig what MLB's stance was on the Mills Commission."

A little background: The old myth about the invention of baseball — that, in 1839, Abner Doubleday interrupted a marbles game in Cooperstown, New York, to draw a diagram of a baseball field and explain the rules of what he called "base ball" — is itself an invention, one promulgated by this Mills Commission, which was the sort of handpicked blue ribbon panel that a century or so later Bud Selig would call on to reach certain handpicked conclusions. The Cooperstown creation story has been debunked by everyone from Stephen Jay Gould to Donald Honig to freaking Wikipedia. As far as anyone can tell, Honig once wrote, Doubleday "didn't know a baseball from a kumquat," and the only evidence marshaled in support of the theory was a letter supposedly written by a mining engineer in Denver named Abner Graves. But Doubleday was a minor Civil War hero — as captain of the Union artillery in Charleston, he gave the orders to return fire after the initial attack on Fort Sumter — and as such he perfectly suited the story baseball wanted to tell about itself, one in which an indigenous game emerged fully formed from the American soil (without the contributions of any inconvenient foreigners).


Here's Gould:

If you have to have an American hero, could anyone be better than the man who fired the first shot (in defense) of the Civil War? Needless to say, this point was not lost on the members of Mills's committee. Spalding, never one to mince words, wrote to the committee when submitting Graves's dubious testimony: "It certainly appeals to an American pride to have had the great national game of base ball created and named by a Major General in the United States Army." Mills then concluded in his report: "Perhaps in the years to come, in view of the hundreds of thousands of people who are devoted to base ball, and the millions who will be, Abner Doubleday's fame will rest evenly, if not quite as much, upon the fact that he was its inventor . . . as upon his brilliant and distinguished career as an officer in the Federal Army."

The story was a load of nationalistic hooey from the same age that gave us the Piltdown Man, and it's hard to believe that any historians at all, even ones who hang out with Bud Selig, would buy the origin myth today. Everyone knows it's a crock. The Hall of Fame itself says the sport "wasn't really born anywhere" — it evolved, in other words. That the sport's own commissioner "really believe[s]" in the Doubleday fairy tale is both incredible and, Bud Selig being Bud Selig, not the least bit surprising. He is a grown man still leaving out cookies for Santa Claus. Or a used car salesman who has sold bullshit for so long that he now believes his own line.

CHIN MUSIC: Doubleday Docs Missing; Bud Selig a Big Fan of Abner; More on Bogus Mantle Jerseys; Halper, "Father of LOA's" [Hauls of Shame]

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