The Ghost of Abner Doubleday

Abner Doubleday the Mystic appears to have been far more interested in Hinduism than he ever was in baseball. In fact, we have plenty of history that ties him to the former and nothing really credible at all that connects him to the latter.

Abner Doubleday did a lot of things in his life, but, as all informed students of the game now fully understand, inventing baseball wasn’t one of them. As a distinguished officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, it was actually Doubleday who ordered the first return cannon-shot on the Confederates who came and fired the first preemptive volley on the American forces at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

Much later, Abner Doubleday served with the post-war occupation army in Galveston, Texas, when he took over in November 1866 as Major General of the Union forces stationed in the island city. He also served in Galveston as Assistant Director of the Freedman’s Bureau until August 1, 1867. During this time, on April 21, 1867, the 31st anniversary of the The Battle of San Jacinto for Texas Independence, the occasion was celebrated at the Battlegrounds with a game of base ball won by the Houston Stonewalls over the Galveston Robert E. Lees by a score of 35-2.

Although it’s always been rumored that the Galveston club included some Union soldier-players, it’s hard to see how these men could bring themselves to either play, or be accepted by, a team calling themselves the “Robert E. Lees.” If they did, it was a public relations move to top all others in the post-war South. Of course, if the Union boys did play a part in that 35-2 smothering that Galveston took from Houston that day, it may have set things back a step or too as well.

At any rate, there is no surviving evidence that Abner Doubleday even knew about the San Jacinto Day game of 1867, let alone, actually attended or participated.

After the war, Doubleday was living in San Francisco in 1870 when he applied for a patent to build the first railed street car service in the United States. When Doubleday was reassigned by the Army Recruiting Service from the bay area, he sold his cable car rights to the people who actually built the first such service in San Francisco.

On the spiritual side, Doubleday became active in the American Theosophical Society after a later move to New Jersey. In 1878, he became the group’s leader after the two founders moved to India for further study. The group held that their purpose was to explore and find the root threads that connect all religions, but they were heavily influenced, as was Doubleday too, apparently, by a lot of beliefs that come from Hinduism.

Doubleday understood and believed in both karma and reincarnation. If that were the case, it’s too bad he wasn’t also, at least, an avid baseball fan. Karma would have helped him understand the Chicago Cubs. Reincarnation (which, as I understand things, is about “keep doing things until you get it right”) could have helped him understand all of the Brooklyn Dodger World Series matches with the New York Yankees.

Oh well. Count me among those who don’t mind that baseball made a temporary mistake in naming Doubleday and Cooperstown as the inventor and birthplace of baseball. What a beautiful setting that place really is. If baseball was not invented there, as the experts and evidence now shows that it was not, I’m just one of those who agree that it should have been.

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3 Responses to “The Ghost of Abner Doubleday”

  1. Marsha Franty Says:

    Another great essay, Bill! Being a native New Yorker, I agree with your sentiment that baseball should have been “invented” in the lovely, lake-dotted hills of central New York State!

  2. David Munger Says:

    Let me know your Astro schedule this weekend, I’ll try to catch up.

    David Munger

  3. Clayton Dedominicis Says:

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