Birthplace: Ballston Spa, NY
Location of death: Mendham, NJ
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military, Baseball
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Didn't invent baseball
Military service: US Army (1842-73, to Major General)
Abner Doubleday is probably best known as the inventor of baseball, though he was not. In 1907, a panel of baseball experts headed by A. G. Spalding conducted a highly-publicized investigation into the origins of the game, and concluded that Doubleday had written the rules for baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York (where the Baseball Hall of Fame was later constructed).
The panel's work, however, was driven more by mythmaking and the desire for good publicity for the sport than by any actual study of history. Doubleday himself never claimed to have invented or even played baseball, and never mentioned the sport in his diaries, letters, or papers. He grew up near Cooperstown, but his family moved away in 1838, and by 1839, while Doubleday was alleged to have been inventing baseball at Cooperstown, he was a cadet at West Point, about 75 miles away. In truth, the rules modern audiences and players would begin to recognize for the game of baseball were written in 1845 by a committee headed by Alexander Cartwright -- but even by then similar games called "base ball" had been played for decades.
Doubleday could not object -- he was already dead when he was chosen as baseball's false founding father -- and he was considered a strong candidate because he was known and respected as a war hero. His military career began in the Mexican and Seminole Indian Wars, and he was second in command at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, when the fort came under Confederate attack with the opening shots of the American Civil War. Doubleday himself gave the order to fire the first Union cannon shot in that war. He was appointed brigadier general in February 1862, and saw combat in the second battle of Bull Run (30 August 1862) and at Antietam (17 September 1862), before being promoted to Major General in November of that year. He was present at the battles of Fredericksburg (13 December 1862) and Chancellorsville (1-5 May 1863), and he commanded the 3rd Division, I Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863). As an officer he was noted for methodical planning and calm demeanor in the chaos of battle.
In 1870 he was stationed in San Francisco, where with three business partners he proposed and received a city franchise for what became the first cable car line in San Francisco. Unable to find the necessary financing, they sold their franchise to a cable manufacturer, Andrew Smith Hallidie, who then constructed the world's first cable car route, San Francisco's Clay Street Hill Railroad. In 1871 Doubleday was placed in command of an all African-American regiment, the 24th U.S. Infantry. In 1873 he retired to New Jersey, where he became active in the Theosophical Society, a group devoted to the study of spiritualism and the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies. In 1878 he became President of the Society's American operations.
Doubleday had strong math skills, and worked as a civil engineer before attending West Point. His father, Ulysses Doubleday, was a two-term US Congressman representing New York, and his grandfather, also named Abner Doubleday, served under "Mad" Anthony Wayne in the American Revolution. He does have one valid link to baseball -- Hall of Famer Wade Boggs is Abner Doubleday's seventh cousin. Frank Doubleday, founder of the Doubleday publishing empire, was also a distant cousin.
Father: Ulysses Doubleday (US Congressman, b. 15-Dec-1792, d. 10-Mar-1866)
Mistress: Hester Donnelly Doubleday (b. 30-Aug-1788, m. 10-Oct-1814, d. 14-Nov-1859)
Brother: Thomas Donnelly Doubleday (bookstore owner, b. 18-Feb-1816, d. 9-Mar-1864)
Brother: Ulysses Doubleday, Jr. (stock broker, b. 31-Aug-1824, d. 11-Feb-1893)
Wife: Mary Hewitt Doubleday (b. circa 1823, m. 1852, d. 13-Mar-1907, no children)
High School: Auburn Academy, Cooperstown, NY (1836)
University: US Military Academy, West Point (1842)
Shot Battle of Antietam (17-Sep-1862)
Theosophical Society President, America
Author of books:
Reminiscences of Fort Sumter and Moultrie in 1860-61 (1876)
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (1882)
My Life in the Old Army: The Reminiscences of Abner Doubleday (1998)
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