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Pioneers/Executives

Pioneer/Executives #6, Doc Adams

Alexander Cartwright, plaqueA few weeks ago in class, a student brought up the idea of free community college tuition. Another chimed in by saying that all Florida colleges are free. That’s clearly not true. Right? So I did some quick research using my favorite search engine, looking up something like “Florida State University tuition”. Numbers came out – numbers indicating that school in Florida is not free. I expected my student would be soothed.

No such luck. She noted that I wasn’t even looking at Florida State’s official site. Okay then! To me this was a win because she was questioning the credibility of my source. But then it took only a few more seconds to get to Florida State’s official site to find that in-state tuition is $215.55 per credit. For a student taking a full load, that’s in excess of $3200 per semester, not including room, board, books, fees, etc. It’s not so expensive relative to other colleges. But it’s not free!

So I checked in again with my student. Nope. She still said something like, “But I heard that…”

Sometimes we get things wrong. The reason isn’t a surprising one; we’re not perfect. Imperfect beings make mistakes. But here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t understand why, when faced with fairly incontrovertible evidence, she didn’t change her mind. One of the lessons I try to impart to my students – and usually fail in doing – is that it’s tremendously more valuable to be right tomorrow than it is to have been right yesterday. In other words, never argue to prove your point; only argue to find truth. Once you find truth, you can be right every day going forward.

Regarding baseball, the truth is that somebody, or more likely a group of somebodies, invented the game. And it’s no surprise, really, that for a time in our nation’s history we believed that Abner Doubleday was that somebody. After all, the most credible source one could find, the Mills Commission, found Doubleday to be the creator.

Over at 19cBaseball, we see part of the reason why. The Mills Commission was launched after a dispute between Henry Chadwick and Albert Spalding. Notice that it wasn’t launched to find truth, but to settle a dispute. In short, Spalding appointed the Commission. Does anyone read a bias there? And their findings came almost exclusively from the testimony of a 71-year-old, a guy who was just five years old at the time in question. So it’s dubious testimony, for sure. But it proved Spalding’s point, dammit!

As you might expect, many baseball historians questioned the validity of the Mills’ findings. Some championed Alexander Cartwright as the true “father of baseball”. And they won part of this war. Doubleday isn’t in the Hall, and Cartwright’s plaque calls him “Father of Modern Base Ball.” It also says that he set the bases 90 feet apart and made baseball a 9-inning game. Pretty important stuff, right? Well, it’s important only if it’s true.

Doc AdamsSo in continued search for “truth”, baseball’s case got to Congress. Now those guys, they only care about truth, right? No political bias or motivation there… In 1953, Congress credited Alexander Cartwright with the invention of baseball. So Cartwright would seem to be the answer, right?

Sadly, no. What we think we know about Cartwright isn’t exactly true. John Thorne, the Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball, can and does tell the story better, so I recommend you click through. Briefly though, in his outstanding book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Thorn calls Adams “the most significant figure in the early history of baseball.” In Total Baseball, Thorn says that Adams “may be counted as first among the Fathers of Baseball.”

And that’s it, at least for us. That’s the truth as we know today. We might be wrong. And if Miller and Eric were in charge of the Hall, believing what we believe today, we wouldn’t boot Alexander Cartwright out. We wouldn’t even change his plaque. But we would induct Doc Adams. And we would tell the story of how the wrong answers came to be and how we’ve worked to do better.

Doc Adams isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He should be. And today he’s the sixth member of the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. In a week well continue to work to do better, and we’ll learn about pio/exec inductee #7.

Miller

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Pioneer/Executives #6, Doc Adams

  1. Again an inspired choice. I wish more people would understand that the correct way to say it is “fathers of Baseball” not “father of Baseball.” Thanks for what’s been, so far, a great set of choices.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | April 8, 2016, 7:44 am

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