The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989

The Doubleday Myth and Texas Baseball
JOHN M. CARROLL*
T HE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME OF BASEBALL ARE
shrouded in a web of fact and myth that partially obscures the
early years of the national pastime. In Texas, as with the nation at large,
a persistent mythology has been associated with the origins of baseball
in order to establish its American roots and to cloak it with the banner
of nationalism. Most persons who have a passing interest in baseball are
familiar with the so-called Doubleday myth concerning the American
origins of baseball. It was claimed for many years, and is still main-
tained by some, that Abner Doubleday, then a West Point cadet, in-
vented the modern version of baseball at Cooperstown, New York, in
1839.' The Doubleday myth was the brainchild of Albert G. Spalding, a
famous professional pitcher and later sporting goods magnate who was
instrumental in creating a National Commission in 1907 that certified
Doubleday was the inventor of baseball. In 1939 leaders of organized
baseball perpetuated the myth by dusting off the National Commis-
sion's 1907 report and celebrating the "centennial" of baseball at Coo-
perstown in connection with the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame.2
Robert W. Henderson, an English-born sports historian and New
York City librarian, was primarily responsible for debunking the
Doubleday myth. After considerable research, Henderson maintained
*John M. Carroll is professor of history at Lamar University. He has co-authored a book on
American sports history and is currently writing a biography on the early black football great,
Fritz Pollard.
'For details on Doubleday's career and his alleged association with baseball see Dictionary of
American Biography, s.v. "Doubleday, Abner"; Harry Irving Shumway, "Abner Doubleday: Fa-
ther of Baseball," in Famous American Athletes of Today, Seventh Series, ed Jerry Nason (1940;
reprint, Freeport, N Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 133-173
2See Albert G. Spalding, America's National Game: Historic Facts Concerning the Begnning, Evo-
lution, Development and Popularity ofBase Ball, with Personal Remznzscences of Its Vzczssztudes, Its Vzcto-
rzes and Its Votaries (New York: American Sports Publishing Co., 1911), 19-26, Peter Levine,
A G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport (New York: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1985), 112-114, 115 (quotation); Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 4-12; David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball- From
Gentleman's Sport to the Commissioner System (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), 5-8.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed July 26, 2014.