Doc Adams Base Ball Biography (Baseball Pioneer)
Daniel came to New York in 1839, set-up his medical practice and began playing base ball, although it is known he was playing some form of “bat and ball” as early as 1832 (See, The Early Years) at his home in New Hampshire, probably the Massachusetts game or Town Ball. “I was always interested in athletics, while in college and afterward and soon after coming to New York, I began to play base ball….”¹
The New York game was played by young lawyers, doctors, merchants, bank clerks and others who could leave New York twice a week at 3:30 pm. Originally formed in 1839 and called the New York Base Ball Club, “…it had no very definite organization and did not last long.”¹ Some of the younger members of the Club got together and formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, on September 24 , 1845 [with by-laws, a constitution and playing rules].” …. About a month after the organization of this club, several of us medical fellows joined, myself among that number.”¹ Adams and the other members of the club played base ball for exercise and its health benefits. The style of game being played was closer to a “country club” activity than to a modern baseball Club, the social aspect was nearly as important as the sporting aspect.
On June 19, 1846, Doc (the obvious nickname Daniel acquired during his time with the Knickerbockers) played in what is sometimes referred to as the first modern game of baseball (at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey) against the New York Club: the Knickerbockers lost 23-1. Doc scored no aces/runs and had one “out”. One month prior, he had been elected Vice-President of the Club.
The first five years of the Knickerbocker’s existence were the hardest.
“Our players were not very enthusiastic as first, and did not always turn out well on practice days. There was then no rivalry, as no other club was formed until 1850, and during these five years base ball had a desperate struggle for existence. I frequently went to Hoboken to find only two or three members present, and we were often obliged to take our exercise in the form of ‘old cat,’ ‘one’ or ‘two’ as the case might be. As Captain, I had to employ all my rhetoric to induce attendance, and often thought it useless to continue the effort, but my love of the game, and the happy hours spent at the ‘Elysian Fields’ led me to persevere. During the summer months many of our members were out of town, thus leaving a very short playing season.”¹
According to Doc’s youngest child, Roger Cook Adams, in his memoir on his father written in 1939:
Fortunately he was a convincing speaker, and the many dinners that were held gave him his chance to keep up the enthusiasm in the early and difficult days. The term “pep talk” would have meant nothing to him, but that undoubtedly was what the boys got.²
Playing equipment was an early issue; Doc stepped up to the plate and took it upon himself to make all the balls for the Knickerbockers (and for other teams as they were formed).
“I went all over New York to find someone to undertake this work but no one could be induced to try it for love or money. Finally, I found a Scottish saddler who was able to show me a good way to cover the balls with horsehide…I used to make the stuffing out of three or four ounces of rubber cuttings, wound with yarn and then covered with the leather.”¹ Getting the bats made was just as difficult “for no one knew any more about making bats than balls.¹ Doc supervised the turning of the bats to ensure the right diameter and taper often going to several turners to find “suitable wood or one willing to do the work.”¹
¹ Dr. D. L. Adams Memoirs of the Father of Base Ball – The Sporting News; February 29, 1896.
² Nestor of Ball Players by R. C. Adams [Doc Adams’ youngest child, 1874-1962]; Buffalo, New York; August 1939. (unpublished).
Baseball’s Pioneers: The History Of The Knickerbocker Baseball Club, 1845-1866 by Charles Peverelly. Originally published in: Book of American Pastimes; 1866.
This is part 2 of a 6-part series. Part 1
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