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Alexander Cartwright

AKA Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr.

Born: 17-Apr-1820
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 12-Jul-1892
Location of death: Honolulu, HI
Cause of death: Blood poisoning [1]
Remains: Buried, Oahu Cemetery, Honolulu, HI

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Baseball

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Original rules of baseball

Alexander "Alick" Cartwright worked as a clerk for a broker and later for a bank, and, weather permitting, played variations of cricket and rounders in the vacant lots of New York City after the bank closed each day. In 1845 he joined the New York Knickerbockers, a club that played under what were called "New York rules", as distinguished from other clubs that played a similar game called town ball under "Massachusetts rules". Cartwright organized the team with a constitution and bylaws, and suggested that they could arrange more games and the sport would be more widely-played if it had a single set of agreed-upon "Knickerbocker rules".

Cartwright chaired a committee of four Knickerbocker players that drew up a set of rules generally seen as the founding moment for modern baseball. The changes in these new rules included the distinction between fair and foul territory, and the requirement that runners be put out by being tagged with a ball in a fielder's control -- previously, runners could be tagged by being hit with a thrown ball, which sometimes left runners not just "out" but out cold. Knickerbocker rules also stipulated that the bases be laid out in a diamond array with 42 paces between home plate and second base, and the same distance between first and third bases, which works out to bases about 90 feet apart, the same distance as in today's game.

He left the Knickerbockers to follow the California gold rush in March 1849, and took with him his ball and rulebook. In his letters from the cross-country trip he wrote of playing baseball games with locals as he journeyed west. He made a small gold strike in California, and used his earnings to pay passage to Hawaii, where he worked as a bookkeeper for a ship chandlery business, and introduced baseball to other settlers. Cartwright had been a volunteer firefighter in New York City, and was appointed Honolulu's Fire Chief in 1851 by King Kamehameha III. A prolific reader, he was a co-founder of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room, forerunner of Hawaii's present-day state library system. He successfully fought to block a rule that would have prohibited women and children from becoming library members, writing, "What makes us old geezers think we are the only ones to be spiritually and morally uplifted by a public library in this city? Baseballs and gloves are often laid at his gravesite in Oahu Cemetery.


[1] Obituary cites "blood poisoning and persistent boils".

Father: Alexander Joy Cartwright (shipping captain)
Mother: Esther Burlock Cartwright
Brother: Alfred Cartwright
Brother: Benjamin Cartwright
Sister: Esther Cartwright
Sister: Katherine Cartwright
Sister: Mary Cartwright
Wife: Eliza Van Wie Cartwright (m. 2-Jun-1842, two daughters, three sons))
Son: DeWitt Cartwright (b. 3-May-1843, d. 1870)
Daughter: Mary Cartwright Maitland (b. 1-Jun-1845, d. 1869)
Daughter: Katherine Lee Cartwright (b. 5-Oct-1849, d. 16-Nov-1851)
Son: Bruce Cartwright (b. 1853)
Son: Alexander Cartwright III (b. 1855)

    Baseball Hall of Fame 1938
    Honolulu Library and Reading Room (President, 1886-92)
    Honolulu Library and Reading Room (Co-Founder & Board of Directors, 1879-92)
    Fire Chief of Honolulu, HI (1851-60)
    Freemasonry


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