In his March 6, 2015 Connecticut Magazine article, “Efforts Ramp Up to Get CT Baseball Legend Into Hall of Fame”, Eric Olgang detailed the beginning of Marjorie Adams’ quest.
The 1858 New York Knickerbockers and Brooklyn Excelsiors
It wasn’t the pitch she was expecting.
A few years ago, Marjorie Adams of Mystic attended a lecture in Simsbury on the pre-Civil War history of baseball
when the speaker, Gary Goldberg-O’Maxfield threw the baseball history equivalent of a curveball—he discussed
Doc Adams, and hailed him as a forgotten founding father of America’s pastime. Adams is Marjorie’s great
grandfather and she was shocked to hear him included in the talk.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she recalls. Marjorie knew her great grandfather had been an early baseball enthusiast and had pioneered some practices, but she was unaware of the extent of his contributions to the game—few people were or are.
Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, who lived in Ridgefield for the last three and a half decades of his life, was a member of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (an early New York baseball team that played its games in New Jersey). While with the team, Adams invented the position that ultimately became shortstop, set the distance between the bases at 90 feet apart and fixed the pitching distance at 45 feet (the distance has since been moved to 60 feet). He was also an early advocate of several other rules that helped make baseball the game it is today…
…Marjorie embarked on a quest to restore her great grandfather to his rightful place in baseball history. Her ultimate goal is to have him inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but correcting myths surrounding baseball’s early days has proved as difficult as cleanly fielding a knuckleball in the dirt. The true origins of the game are shrouded in mystery. In 1904, Henry Chadwick, an early American sportswriter and baseball statistician, famously remarked, “Baseball never had no ‘fadder’; it jest growed.”…
…Adams made the balls for the team and oversaw the production of the bats. The balls he crafted were lightweight and when they were hit to the outfield it was difficult for outfielders to throw them back to the infield. Consequently, the shortstop position was added by Adams to relay balls thrown from the outfield. Originally, it’s likely the shortstop stood behind second base a little ways into the outfield. …
…Adams was the presiding officer of the first conventions and rules committees to standardize the rules of the game. Prior to his efforts, different fields had different distances between the bases and the pitcher’s mound and home plate. When Adams retired from playing in 1862, he was named “the Nestor of Ball Players” (Nestor is a wise king in Greek mythology). But despite the respect shown Adams by his contemporaries, he has been largely left out of baseball history…
… Marjorie says, “Doc said that his marriage was the crowning achievement of his life. Even in the family, his baseball accomplishments were all very nice but nobody considered it the most important thing. Education was always much more important to our family.”
It’s now 5 years later and Marjorie’s adventure has lasted over 10 years. Hopefully, it is in the final stretch as Doc should be on the Early Baseball ERA ballot in December, looking to receive the required number of votes for selection. If elected, he will be enshrined as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 in Cooperstown on July 25.