Myth Trivia: A tribute to Abner Doubleday, who didn’t invent baseball


CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 21, 2015 – With the World Series just around the corner, our trivia quest today brings us to Abner Doubleday, the man who is credited with inventing the game of baseball — but didn’t.

Fear not however, our trivia research has uncovered an interesting list of little known facts about Mr. Doubleday that make the baseball myth all the more captivating.

Abner Doubleday was born in upstate New York and graduated 25th in a class of 56 from West Point in 1842. As an aside, Cooperstown, which has been the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1939, is roughly situated in what is considered upstate New York. Perhaps more interesting, however, is that it is named after its founder William Cooper, father of James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote “The Last of the Mohicans” as part of his Leatherstocking Tales.

But we digress. Back to Doubleday, who is credited with inventing baseball in roughly 1835. More accurately, Doubleday was a civil engineer for two years prior to entering West Point, where he embarked on a noteworthy military career.

Doubleday served under Gen. Robert Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1861 before being promoted to brigadier general of the United States Volunteers in February 1862.

When Gen. John Porter Hatch was wounded in battle, Doubleday took command and led the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps, at South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg during the Civil War.

The Battle of Antietam, also called the Battle of Sharpsburg, was the first major battle to take place on Union soil during the War Between the States. Even now, it remains the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with a combined body count of dead, wounded and missing of 22,717.

It did not take long for Abner Doubleday to earn yet another promotion to major general in November 1862. Doubleday commanded 3rd Division, I Corps, at Chancellorsville after Gen. John Reynolds was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

Following the war, Doubleday was stationed in San Francisco in 1870 and retired from active military duty in 1873. While in San Francisco, he formed a partnership with three businessmen and received the city franchise for the first cable car line in the city.

Failing to find the necessary financing for the cable car operation, Doubleday and his partners sold the franchise to Andrew Smith Hallidie, a cable manufacturer who constructed San Francisco’s Clay Street Hill Railroad, and the rest is history.

In later life, Doubleday returned to the east coast, where he lived out the remainder of his days in Mendham, N.J. He died on Jan. 26, 1893.

Because of his impressive military accomplishments, Doubleday and his wife Mary are buried in Section I of Arlington National Cemetery.

As for his links to the invention of baseball, the first game was held in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839. Phinney was the first printer in Cooperstown and, as such, he noted that Doubleday regularly competed in games there.

Some historians disagree, claiming that Doubleday was not athletic at all, being more inclined to reading books than competing in sports.

Though there is no solid evidence that Doubleday “invented” baseball, there is still a connection. Most of the rules that continue to be used in the game today were formulated during the 1840s in various places in New York. The “New York Rules” eventually spread throughout the country, and, given that Doubleday was a high ranking military officer responsible for the morale of his men, he is said to have provided balls and bats for his troops.

But the story doesn’t end here. It only gets more interesting.

You see, Abner Doubleday was a captain and second in command of the garrison at Fort Sumter, S.C., under Major Robert Anderson. It was Doubleday who aimed the cannon and fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment in April 1861.

Doubleday later referred to himself as the “hero of Sumter” for his role in that event.

And in true trivia fashion, who knows, perhaps it was Abner Doubleday’s “first shot” at Fort Sumter that led to the baseball tradition of “throwing out the first pitch.”

Or could it be that is where we get the term “double-header”?

You just never know what we will in the intriguing world of trivia.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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