Doubleday, Abner, 1819–93, once credited as originator of baseball and Union general in the American Civil War, b. Saratoga co., N.Y., grad. West Point, 1842. The A. G. Mills commission (1905–8) investigated the origin of baseball and, based upon a single, unsubstantiated letter from an elderly man who later died in an insane asylum, declared that in 1839 Doubleday invented the game at Cooperstown, N.Y. In fact, Doubleday's obituary described him as a man who did not care for outdoor sports, and scholars since have effectively discredited the Cooperstown myth. Doubleday served in the Mexican War and in the Civil War. He saw action at Fort Sumter (where he fired the first shot in defense), Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
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Doubleday, Abner(1819–93) soldier; born in Ballston Spa, N.Y. A West Point graduate (1842), he fought in the Mexican War and against the Seminoles in Florida. He commanded the Federal troops that fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter as the Civil War commenced and then distinguished himself at the battle of Gettysburg. He retired from the army in 1873 and wrote many newspaper and magazine articles as well as two accounts of his war experiences, drawing on his 67 volumes of diaries. Although in nothing he wrote does he ever mention baseball, nor does his New York Times obituary, in 1908 a commission eager to establish American origins of baseball credited him with being its inventor on the basis of a dubious letter from one Abner Graves, who claimed to have been present in Cooperstown, N.Y., on the day in 1839 that Doubleday laid out the field and rules. Although the claim has long since been recognized as popular folklore—even by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown—Doubleday remains synonymous with baseball to most Americans.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.