Doc Adams

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Daniel Lucius Adams

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Biographical Information[edit]

Doc Adams is probably the least known of the great figures who were instrumental to the development of baseball as the "National Pastime" in the middle of the 19th century.

The son of a patrician New England family, Daniel Adams graduated from Yale University in 1835 and then obtained his medical degree from Harvard University in 1838. He opened a medical practice in his hometown of Mont Vernon, NH, but soon moved to Boston, MA and then to New York, NY. He was always interested in athletics and began to play baseball after moving to New York, helping to found the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York on September 23, 1845. The club included a number of young members of New York's upper middle class, most prominent of whom was Alexander Cartwright, and was mainly composed of former members of the New York Baseball Club, an older but less well-organized entity. He became the club's President in 1846.

Contrary to mythology, baseball did not emerge fully formed out of a set of rules designed by Cartwright. It grew out of games played around New York beginning in the 1820s, probably inspired by rounders and other similar bat and ball games that had been played in England. Distinctive practices that make baseball what it is, such as playing on a diamond and not a square, and having nine fielders per team, gradually became fixed during the following two decades, and Adams was at the heart of that process. He is credited with creating the shortstop position (only the three bases were occupied by fielders in rounders) and in manufacturing the first baseballs, doing so himself before identifying a saddler who recommended the use of stitched horsehide. The standardization of the ball led to that of the field dimensions.

In 1848, Adams headed the committee that revised the rules of the game. Among the changes were the modern fly ball rule, eliminating outs made on fly balls caught on a bounce. With a dozen clubs in existence around New York by the 1850s, he took the initiative in 1856 to convene a conference of team presidents to agree on a single set of rules. He was elected president of the first convention of baseball players, held in May of 1857. It was at that time that the convention of a game being played over 9 innings was adopted (in earlier versions of the game, the winning team was the first to score 21 runs). The next convention, held in march of 1848, declared the creation of the first National Association of Base Ball Players. That group was more akin to sports federation than to a league, however. Adams was the chairman of its rules and regulations committee. He resigned his position in 1862, at the height of the Civil War.

He had married Cornelia Cook in 1861, and resigned his medical practice in 1865 because of health concerns, moving to Ridgefield, CT shortly thereafter. He served in the Connecticut state house and was president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank and treasurer of the town's library. He moved to New Haven, CT with his family in 1888 and died there of influenza in 1899.

His name was on the ballot for the Hall of Fame 2016 election with other figures from the "Pre-Integration Era".

Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Post: "Pioneer's relative fights for his HOF election: Adams, credited with early rules, is on Pre-Integration Era ballot",, November 27, 2015. [1]
  • John Thorn: Baseball in the Garden of Eden: the Secret History of the Early Game, Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2011.

Related Sites[edit]