"Inventing Baseball": Henry Chadwick

One of the first box scores ever. This is the man you have to thank.

Henry Chadwick was born on October 5, 1824. Although he would not play a single game of baseball, he would become one of the game’s most important early figures. He was born in Exeter, England, but at the age of 13, he and his family moved to New York. When he first moved to Brooklyn, he became an avid player of cricket and rounders, two popular sports at the time. Aside from cricket (he would give up rounders when he got older), Chadwick was a talented piano player, but instead of teaching or playing piano, Chadwick would become a reporter just like his father had been in England.

As a young cricket reporter, Chadwick ran across a game between the New York Eagles and New York Gothams in 1856 while reporting for the New York Times. He frequented the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, but although he was there to report on cricket, he began to love baseball. He joined the Clipper in 1847 and became a journalist covering baseball. Because of his passion for the game, Chadwick would be an important person for the public’s view of baseball. As an amateur statistician, he reworked box scores for cricket into ones for baseball. Furthermore, he was the editor for The Beadle Baseball Player, the first guide to baseball, and it was here that he created the in-game scoring system, among them the K for strikeout. He would often frequent rules committee meetings in addition to his promotion of the game.

He took it a step further by following the National Base Ball Club of Washington, D.C. around the country as scorekeeper, and he would even help promote a tour of England. Baseball, however, did not always bring pleasant feelings for Chadwick. Chadwick feared the growing enthusiasm for alcohol and gambling among the sport’s players. He worked for the banning of such activities from baseball, but his biggest battle was yet to come.

He was a strong friend of Albert Spalding, but when the Mills Commission (of which Spalding was part) decided to “find” the “inventor” of baseball, he took exception. Chadwick argued that baseball evolved from rounders and cricket, two sports with which he was familiar, and that no one could have invented the game. When Abner Doubleday was named the founder, Chadwick was the first to admonish the decision. Most of baseball called Chadwick a liar, but Chadwick refused to give. Regardless, he was still a strong voice for the game, and he respected the intention to make baseball the “national pastime”.

In 1908, he caught a cold while attending a double-header, but it soon evolved into pneumonia. The disease weakened him for the next few weeks until he died in April of 1908. On his gravestone, it said “Father of Base Ball”, and it had a sphere on top in the shape of a baseball and a square face with small squares etched in the corners to look like bases. Thirty years later, the Veterans Committee would elect him to the Hall of Fame.

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