Doc’s father, Daniel Adams MD (1773-1864) was born in Townsend, Massachusetts and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1797 and from the second class of Dartmouth Medical School in 1799. As well as being a practicing physician, he also authored widely used arithmetic and geography textbooks (the former was in use from 1801 to c.1864).
In the measurement section of his Arithmetic book, question # 11 (below) is of particular interest. Someone who would have no difficulty solving that problem was his son, Daniel Lucius ‘Doc’ Adams.
Doc Adams started playing base ball in 1839. He played for both the New York Base Ball Club and the New York Knickerbockers (1845 – 1862). The latter of which was one of the first organized baseball teams which played under a set of rules similar to the game today.
From Adams of the Knickerbockers by Robert W. Henderson:
Roger C. Adams tells us that his father undertook the job of making the balls, and personally supervised the turning of bats. The Minutes of the club, preserved in the New York Public Library, record that the doctor collected one dollar and a quarter for each ball he made.
Adams’ method of making balls was to form a small, round core of rubber clippings, and to wind yarn around this core until the ball reached the required size. He then took a piece of leather, cut out four equal quarter-sections, and sewed them together over the yarn, thus making a good, hard cover.
For six or seven years Adams made all the balls himself, not only for the Knickerbockers, but for other clubs as they came into existence. The records show that the last payment to Adams for balls was on December 15, 1859. Later a boot maker was persuaded to take over the difficult job, and on April 18, 1862 the first commercial sale of baseballs is shown on the invoice of John Hill’s Tool Shop, which charged “1/2 doz. Base balls” at $6.50.²
Where did Dr. Adams get the formula for making a baseball? His son Roger cannot enlighten us on the matter, nor can he state if Adams was the first to make the type now used, although of course considerably improved over those made by the doctor. Balls are as ancient as recorded history. There have been many kinds, inflated, solid, or stuffed with all kinds of materials from sawdust to feathers. The baseball type may well have originated with Adams, although it resembles rather closely the yarn-rolled balls used for centuries in the game of court tennis. If Adams had the tennis ball in mind, he substituted a leather cover for a cloth cover, making it tough enough to withstand a blow from a wooden bat, instead of the softer blow from a heavily stringed racquet.