Who invented baseball? Bud Selig wants to know
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In these days of the Internet, there is no such thing as a private letter. Commissioner Bud Selig wrote last fall -- in a personal letter to an author and autograph collector -- that he believed Abner Doubleday had invented baseball. Then the letter hit the Internet, and Selig was criticized from all corners.
In the letter, which you can read here, Selig 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 that would dispute this though.”
Just about all of them would, according to this New York Times article that says the idea that Doubleday invented baseball had been “so thoroughly debunked” that it ranked as one of the “great American myths, alongside George Washington’s cherry tree, Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame last year published a book citing “the Doubleday myth,” and the New York Times story quoted baseball historian John Thorn as finding just one documented link between Doubleday and baseball -- an 1871 letter in which Doubleday, as a military officer, had asked for “baseball implements” for his soldiers.
Selig appointed Thorn as official historian of Major League Baseball on March 1.
On Tuesday, Selig announced that Thorn would lead a 12-member task force “to determine the facts of baseball’s beginnings and its evolution.” Selig will serve on the panel, whose other members include filmmaker and historian Ken Burns, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author Jane Levey and the omnipresent George Will.
-- Bill Shaikin