Everyone knows that baseball, our national pastime, was invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.Ahh, but do we really know that?No!We do not.We’ve been hoodwinked.Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.And he did not invent it in Cooperstown.And it wasn’t 1839.This is a widely dispensed myth.Dispensed and dispersed.
Abner Doubleday is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.Almost no one knows this.A D was an officer in the United States Army.Very few of us know this too.Among other deeds, we think he fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, thus starting the Civil War.I sure as hell didn’t know that.
Now here’s the whopper.A document is on file at the Berkshire Athenaeum, the public library in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.I’ve called attention to the section that I want to make sure you see.
The circled word is “baseball” in that old style where the Ss look like Fs.Part of the text, dated September 5, 1791, reads…
Be it ordained…that no Person…shall be permitted to play at any Game called Wicket, Cricket, Baseball, Batball, Football, Cat, Fives or any other Game or Games with Balls within the Distance of Eighty Yards from said Meeting House…
…and it does go on.But here’s the point.
This is believed to be the earliest written reference to “baseball” in North America.1791, fully 48 years before Doubleday supposedly invented the game.Heck, Abbie wasn’t even born until 1819!
Why did the community of Pittsfield ban “bafeball?”The document is called the “Broken Window By-law,” and the prohibition named within was intended to keep sports players from breaking the windows of the Pittsfield Meeting House.So even if this was the first written mention of the game, it implies that it had been played long enough to piss off people who had enough familiarity with the game to know that windows magnetically attract baseballs.