Transpacific Field of Dreams: How Baseball Linked the United States and Japan in Peace and War

By Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu | Go to book overview

1
PACIFIC CROSSINGS

On December 30, 1907, Abraham G. Mills, the fourth president of the National League of Base Ball Clubs (NL), issued the final report of a special seven-member panel appointed by Albert G. Spalding, a kingpin of American professional baseball’s founding brothers, to determine “the true origins of America’s national pastime.” The commission, which included two U.S. senators, was charged to “weigh all available evidence” against the claim made by English-born baseball writer and statistician Henry Chadwick that the game had evolved from the British folk game of rounders. After three years of intermittent investigation, the Mills Commission definitively dismissed Chadwick’s thesis, reporting that baseball was solely of American origins. The singular basis of this unequivocal conclusion was written testimony sent to Spalding by Abner Graves, a former resident of Cooperstown, New York. Sixty-eight years after the alleged event took place, the informant recalled that his childhood friend Abner Doubleday, a West Point graduate and a Civil War hero (who also happened to be Mills’s commander in the Civil War), had single-handedly invented the game of baseball in 1839 on a playing field in the pastoral upstate New York village. Baseball scholars, such as Robert W. Henderson and Harold Seymour, have long since debunked this DoubledayCooperstown foundational myth. The current scholarly consensus holds that no single individual created baseball; rather, it evolved incrementally from various forms of bat-and-ball folk games, including British rounders. This cultural form of transatlantic hybrid pedigree grew into a modern team sport in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York in the early nineteenth century, with each of these burgeoning northeastern American cities developing its distinctive formats of the game. These regional archetypes competed for dominance in midcentury America, but by the eve of the

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