Americans have always been smitten with folklore; be it Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, or Davey Crockett, we just can’t help ourselves. The national pastime is no different, full of guilty pleasures that seem harmless, but still distort reality. You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball fan who hasn’t heard the tall tale of Abner Doubleday; you know that ole’ Civil War hero who “invented” baseball in a cow pasture. After all, the Hall of Fame was established in his hometown, Cooperstown, New York right? While the HOF does reside in upstate New York, even they don’t credit Doubleday as the father of baseball anymore. Still, if you mention the iconic name at any ballpark across the country you’ll likely get that same fictional reaction from older fans, a byproduct of special interests that played a good game of wagging the dog a century ago.
In the early 1900s baseball’s origin was murky and controversy struck a chord with certain patriotic bigwigs as rumors surfaced that that our “national game” might have English roots. While cricket and rounders may have been popular across the pond, sporting goods mogul Albert Spalding felt it advantageous to make sure baseball was an “American” sport invented by an “American.” Spalding organized a “fishing expedition” to solidify baseball’s roots once and for all—well, sort of. Cue the dog and pony