Baseball historian George B. Kirsch has a great piece over at HNN about why so many people still believe that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball. Here is his take on why this myth has survived for so long.
The first is baseball’s continuing association with American nationalism. Doubleday’s fame as a hero of the Battle of Gettysburg and the enormous power of the Civil War in American memory explain why Albert G. Spalding and Major League Baseball endorsed him as the inventor of the sport over a century ago. Selig’s comment continues this tradition of connecting American patriotism with our national pastime. The Doubleday myth perfectly suits that purpose, despite all the critical attacks by both academic and popular historians.
The second reason for the enduring power of the Doubleday tale is that it is simply a very appealing story. Most Americans (wrongly) think of baseball as a pastoral game that originated in rural America. (Actually in its modern form it is an urban export of antebellum and Civil War-era New York City). The founders of the Hall of Fame and Museum recognized the power of the story when they selected its first class of inductees in 1936 and opened its building in 1939. Over the past seventy years the institution has used the Doubleday tale to market itself to millions of baseball fans, with stunningly successful results. As Craig Muder, an official of the Hall of Fame, explained: “`The Myth’ has grown so strong that the facts will never deter the spirit of Cooperstown.”
Tim Beirne says
Another reason why everyone should see the Ken Burns' documentary.