Forget the Inventor of Baseball Claim, Abner Doubleday Was a War Hero

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General Abner Doubleday

By Ken Zurski

ABNER DOUBLEDAY, the name synonymous with the invention of baseball, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A decorated general in the Civil War, Doubleday was everywhere in the Union theater. He aimed the first guns at Fort Sumter to start the war, replaced another general, Joshua Reynolds, after he was struck down on the first day of Gettysburg, and led the troops to repulse Pickett’s Charge.  Doubleday survived the war with honors and continued a life in the military until his retirement in 1873.

He died in 1893.

The campaign to associate Doubleday with baseball’s origins began in 1905 with a letter published in “Spalding Baseball Guides” claiming Doubleday was in Cooperstown, New York (the so-called birthplace of baseball) and had indeed “…invented the game.” It was signed by a man named Abner Graves who says he witnessed it.  The letter caught the eye of A.G.Mills, the president of the National League of Base Ball Clubs at the time, and head of a commission to determine how baseball started.

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A.G. Mills

Mills and Doubleday were friends and both members of the soldier’s veterans committee. Based only on the letter it seems, Mills began the push to link his friend with the game’s conception.

Of course, this was all done after Doubleday was gone.

In fact, until his death at the age of 73, Doubleday never mentioned a connection to baseball and was only interested in his legacy as a war general – an undisputed and honorable affirmation.

His inclusion at the nation’s most hallowed grounds is a testament to that.

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