Thanks to early baseball pioneer Albert Spaulding, many fans stillthink of Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. In truth, baseball
was born through the alchemy of many efforts by men who contributed
far more than the story of Abner Doubleday. In the first of a series here at INSIDE PITCH we will look at some of the ‘fathers’ of baseball who unduly lie in the shadows of General Abner- who should be more properly honored in his remembrance as a great leader during the Battle of Gettysburg (Civil War) rather than for his contributions to baseball.
In it’s early beginnings, as baseball or base ball (pre-19th century spelling) evolved from a series of games between social clubs into professional sporting leagues, a man known as Sir Henry Chadwick was busy putting pen to paper recording many of the first stories and statistics of this new professional game. Chadwick would become what most baseball historians consider the first ‘American Sportswriter’ or the ‘Father of Base Ball’.
While there were articles written about professional sporting events (boxing, cricket, chess, billiards…) before Chadwick, there had never been any continual coverage of a professional sport in this country. Professional sports in America were just bubbling in their infancy when Chadwick, a writer and amateur statistician, began to enlighten readers about this fanciful new game called base ball- a game he was impassioned to make into America’s pastime.
In the 1850’s he began submitting scores and stories to local Brooklyn newspapers. By 1862 he had every New York newspaper including the New York Times reporting on baseball. In the 1860’s as a scorekeeper for the National Base Ball Club of Washington D.C. he developed new ways for measuring the value of a pitcher and a hitter. Earned Run Average (ERA) and Batting Average (AVG) were two of the many statistics first employed by Sir Henry. He was also an integral member and contributor to the earliest rules committees in baseball and wielded strong influence on rule changes through his columns which were often pointed and severly critical of the powers that be. A weekly rant about his abhorrence for gambling and the need for temperance in baseball was a common theme in many articles.
The first hard-cover book about baseball was penned by Mr. Chadwick in 1868, "The Game of Base Ball?". His popularity as a writer began to blossom when he edited the first public baseball guides of the day, The Beadle Baseball Player and the annual Spalding and Reach Guide, where he taught readers how to develop their skills and play the game. His newspaper column, "Chadwick’s Chat", was one of the most read columns in New York City. His weekly articles helped shape the format for modern day sportswriting. A usual "Chat" would combine commentary with a game-recap and a boxscore. The modern day baseball boxscore can also be credited to Mr. Chadwick. Having grown up an avid cricket and rounders fan in England, Chadwick used the cricket boxscore as a template. A boxscore (Photo Below) from an 1876 game between the Boston Red Caps and the Philadelphia Athletics may look quite different from today, but it does show how baseball was beginning to stamp its own identity. The term home-run was already in use and scorekeepers had begun to differentiate between earned and unearned runs.
Henry Chadwick was more than just a sportswriter, he was also an accomplished pianist, a songwriter, a drama critic and during the Civil War- he spent a short time as a news correspondent. He was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1938 and remains the only writer elected into the Hall itself (as opposed to the Writers Wing). He will forever be remembered as one of the true forefathers of the game of baseball.
"The great National Game of Base Ball which he founded and fostered so steadily, firmly and conscientiously, as it now stands, is a monument to his memory. It is doubtless the only monument he would have wished. That is an imperishable as any statue of granite or marble."
—Sam Crane, 19th century Washington statesman and professional second baseman, posthumously talking about Henry Chadwick.
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