The Oregon Historical Society’s Baseball’s Magna Carta: Setting the Rules of America’s Game Exhibit opened on July 1, 2016. The public debut of the “Laws of Base Ball” authored by Doc Adams which sold, at auction, for a baseball document record $3,263,246. The papers were first exhibited in Portland because the new owner, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a “friend of the historical society.”
The documents “thoroughly change the early history of baseball,” the historical society states. The 1857 documents are the “first written-down rules of what became the modern game,” Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk told The Oregonian. They established the number of players in the field, the number of innings per game and the distance between bases, among other guidelines.
This compelling artifact establishes that Daniel Lucius ‘Doc’ Adams is unequivocally a key Founding Father of baseball and deserves to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This primary evidence, written in Doc’s own hand, cements his Hall of Fame case, or at least one would expect that it does. However, his place in baseball history has yet to be aacknowledged.
John Thorn gave a lecture in the Oregon Historical Society’s summer series on the occasion of the ‘Laws of Base Ball’ making its public debut, entitled, “Baseball in the Garden of Eden (can be heard in its entirety here)“. The lecture was enlightening and entertaining (would have loved to have been there) and definitely worth a listen.
Three key highlights (with their approximate location within the audio file) of the lecture are transcribed below:
(37:12) “When the veteran’s committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame voted on Adams last year, one of the reasons that some voters withheld their ballot for was Adams was that the only proof of Adams’ achievement was his own attestation as a man in his 80’s.”
(39:20) “Now with the rediscovery of his Laws of Base Ball, drafted for presentation to the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and thence to the floor of the 1857 Convention, we have tangible primary evidence of his genius. Somebody asked me, today, how many votes I thought Adams might get when he comes up for election at the Hall of Fame, because out of the 16, he got 10 last time, 12 is necessary, for election. I said I thought it would be 16 because what you have here in Portland today is incontrovertible proof of Adams genius. “
(44:45) “The Hall of Fame knows about this story. They know that Adams is going to be a member of the Hall of Fame at some point.”