Victory, it is said, has a thousand fathers. Baseball, too.
Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams is, for reasons passing understanding, without tangible recognition in Cooperstown. This is despite being a highly significant contributor to baseball’s genesis. It is not an uncommon tale, of course. The specter of Gil Hodges, an evergreen topic for debate about Hall of Fame inclusion, stands on the sidelines of 25 Main Street as thousands trek yearly to this bucolic village in upstate New York, pay homage to baseball’s icons, and gander at plaques honoring Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and several other boys of summer. This, regardless of membership on seven consecutive National League All-Star teams, seven consecutive years of 100 or more RBI, and a managerial career noted for turning around the woes of the New York Mets. His efforts would culminate in the 1969 World Series championship.
Charles Ebbets, the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who would conceive Ebbets Field—and sacrifice half his ownership to finance the ballpark—does not have a plaque at the Hall of Fame. Quincy Trouppe, a standout from the Negro Leagues, often occupies a spot in Hall of Fame debates.
Adams’s denial, to date, contrasts the honor given to some of his 19th century brethren. In his 2011 book Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, John Thorn Major League Baseball’s Official Historian wrote that the Mills Commission’s report which inaccurately credited Abner Doubleday with the primary role in baseball’s creation failed to highlight “William Rufus Wheaton or Daniel Lucius Adams, recently revealed to be larger figures in baseball’s factual beginnings than either [Alexander] Cartwright or Doubleday.”
Indeed, his role in baseball’s ur-phase, emerging through the dedication of Thorn and other baseball archaeologists, would remain, until the latter part of the 20th century, mostly obscured by Cartwright’s vaunted position as the father of the National Pastime and the legend, long since debunked as myth, that Doubleday designed the game’s blueprint.
It would be Adams, however, who would set the 90-foot length between bases.
It would be Adams, however, who would help shape baseball’s rules as president of the Knickerbockers. A team with historical prestige for playing in what was, seemingly, if not concretely, the first organized baseball game. This would take place in Hoboken in 1846.
It would be Adams, however, who would negate the opportunity to get a batter out by fielding a ball on one bounce.
It would be Adams, however, who would set the number of players at nine.
And it would be Adams, however, who would conceive of a game lasting nine innings.
Teetering on the edge of Cooperstown, Adams is becoming decreasingly enigmatic. And, increasingly valuable in determining baseball’s genesis, evolution, and governance. In 2015, the Hall of Fame’s Pre-Integration Committee disclosed that Adams received 10 votes of 16. Or, two votes short of the 12 needed for membership. The Society for American Baseball Research Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legends Committee named Adams its 2014 legend.
Adams’s effect would manifest in a 2016 auction for his handwritten “Laws of Base Ball”. Ultimately, SCP Auctions would sell for $3.26 million.