When the Society for American Baseball Research’s (SABR’s) Nineteenth Century Research Committee signed on to write and publish, “Base Ball’s 19th Century ‘Winter’ Meetings: 1857-1900” (the precursor to two volumes written by SABR’s Business of Baseball Research Committee covering 1901 – 2016’s Winter Meetings) we knew we had to start from the beginning. And, that beginning was 1857, when baseball’s first true convention was held.
Sixteen teams and forty-eight delegates in all met over two meeting dates in 1857 to codify the rules of play based on “the New York Game.” They selected the then President of New York City’s Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (one of the first organized clubs in New York) Daniel “Doc” Adams, who in the interceding years, as a player, had already developed the modern position of shortstop, to preside over this very first convention dedicated to establishing a set of 17 uniform rules, including a distance of 90 foot bases, nine players and, nine innings of play instead of first team to score 21 runs determining the game’s length.
It was “Doc” Adams, a Harvard-educated medical doctor who practiced medicine in mid-19th century New York City, who led those discussions, took meticulous notes, and drafted the rules of play. That document, in his hand, exists today. After a single season of play under the new rules, the original teams and others met in March of 1858 when Adams called the second meeting to order. At this second meeting, baseball’s first official organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) was created in time for the 1858 season.
“Doc” Adams was selected by a SABRwide election in 2014, as an Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend, implying that he is deserving, but not yet selected, for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Prepared by: Peter Mancuso, Chairman, Nineteenth Century Research Committee, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), 2020