Doc Adams (Hall Of Fame Candidate) On Pre-Integration Era Hall Of Fame Ballot
Cathy Ratzenberger (Guest Writer)
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Doc Adams on Pre-Integration Era Hall of Fame Ballot
One of the early pioneers of the game of baseball is one step closer to enshrinement at the Baseball Hall of Fame as the Pre-Integration Era Committee has selected Daniel Lucius “Doc”Adams as one of its 10 finalists.
This important step in the process has been championed by Adams’ great-granddaughters Marjorie Adams of Connecticut and Nancy Adams Downey of New York City. For the past several years they have embarked on a passionate journey to have Doc Adams recognized for his contributions to and achievements in the game of baseball.
It is easy to see why an unassuming doctor who referred to his marriage as his “crowning achievement” may have been overlooked for so long as a founding father of baseball.
Yet on October 5th, the Hall of Fame recognized the numerous contributions made by Adams both on and off the field.
Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams was born in Mont Vernon New Hampshire in 1814. He graduated from Yale College in 1835 and from Harvard Medical School in 1938. After practicing medicine in New Hampshire and Boston he moved to New York City where he played with the New York Base Ball Club before joining the newly formed New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club in 1845.
It was with the Knickerbockers that Adams made his mark as a player, a club officer and even an umpire.
“Doc did not invent baseball,” said Marjorie. “Bat and ball games have been around since the pyramids.”
Yet one cannot underestimate the impact Doc Adams had on the game. In the 1850’s as the game began to develop, Adams advocated for a permanent set of rules. In 1857, he was elected as presiding officer of a convention dedicated to codifying the rules. He campaigned for the fly game – not allowing first bounce catches to be ruled an out. Under Adams, the distance between bases was fixed at 90 feet and the length of the game was determined to be 9 innings.
“Doc loved the game enough to take the time to figure out what would be the best distance between bases,” said Marjorie. “He knew the game and understood mathematics. This appealed to his scientific mind.”
What Adams also understood was physics. Players used a lighter ball and outfielders could not necessarily throw it into the infield. He realized there needed to be a player who would assist in getting the ball from the outfield to the infield. He not only created the shortstop position, but was the first to occupy that role.
“If it were not for Doc, we might not know about Derek Jeter,” said Marjorie.
Yet for all of his contributions to the evolution of the game, there are many in the baseball community who are unaware of name Doc Adams and his legacy. Not surprisingly since as recent as 2011 former Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig publically stated that he believed Abner Doubleday invented baseball.
So when no less than the commissioner of baseball believes this fabrication, how do you convince people to listen to your story? If your ultimate goal is to have Adams recognized by the Hall of Fame, how do you bring your “message” to the right people?
It helps if you have great-granddaughters who believe it is past time for a game which prides itself on the celebration of its origins to recognize one
of its own who made such a significant impact.
“We grew up knowing about it, but it was never the main topic of conversation,” said Marjorie. “In our family, it was thought bad form to brag.”
So Doc Adams was referred to as “that baseball guy”. However, several years ago Marjorie and Nancy resolved it was time for their great grandfather to be acknowledged as the pioneer he was.
Now Marjorie never misses an opportunity to provide an education about her great grandfather. Her delivery is fluid and easily captures an audience. She knows that even the most ardent baseball fan may not recognize the name of Doc Adams – but they do know of his legacy.
With all of his accomplishments, why is Doc Adams not yet in the Hall of Fame? That’s a complicated question the reasons which differ among historians. Marjorie chooses not to dwell on the past or any negative discourse, instead focusing on education.
“People who generally love the game, not just their team or their favorite player, need to have an open mind,” said Marjorie. She has found many who are very interested in her message.
On a recent visit to Citi Field in New York she had a chance encounter with the Atlanta Braves broadcasters, Joe Simpson and Chip Carey waiting for an elevator. With a captive audience, Marjorie went into her full Doc mode eagerly recounting Adams’ accomplishments asking for their support.
In 2014, Marjorie took on the Doc persona during a spirited presentation during SABR’s 19th century conference in Cooperstown. Entertaining the audience, she channeled her great-grandfather, recounting his accomplishments in a folksy way achieving her goal of educating and entertaining her audience. That year, Doc Adams was named SABR’S 19th Century Overlooked Baseball Legend.
In 2011, “Baseball in the Garden of Eden” was released by noted baseball historian John Thorn. Within the pages he cites numerous examples of Doc Adams as a player, rule-maker and even a man so dedicated to the game he manufactured the bats and balls.
Within an article that appeared in The Sporting News on February 29, 1896, Adams recounted his efforts to ensure enough players arrived at each practice. This was essential to the development of the game and perhaps one of the most underappreciated aspects of Adams’ legacy.
“As captain, I had to employ all of my rhetoric to induce attendance, and often though it useless to continue the effort, but my love for the game, and the happy hours spent at the ‘Elysian Fields’ led me to persevere,” said Adams.
“Doc joined the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club about one month after it was founded and during his 16 years with the team and the game he loved, he did so much for the game’s development. He was indeed a pioneer,” said Marjorie.
Upon his retirement from the Knickerbockers in 1862 he was proclaimed the “Nestor of Ball Players”. Referring to the ancient Greek King Nestor, it is a title bestowed on someone who is a considered a wise and senior leader.
Within its proclamation, Adams is honored as a “zealous advocate of our noble game.” It states that the “ Knickerbocker Base Ball Club has lost one of its most honored members: one who for a period of sixteen years in the performance of every duty whether at the bat, or in the field, as our presiding officer, or represented in the National Association of Ball Players, or in the daily walks of life, has ever been faithful …”
Now that Doc Adams is on the ballot, the next step for his election to the Hall of Fame.
“When I get discouraged, I think about them, Daddy, my grandfather and Doc,” said Marjorie. “They’re the ones who keep me going.”
For more information about Doc Adams visit
To show support for Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams “like” him on Facebook.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A Big thanks goes out to our special guest writer Cathy Ratzenberger for preparing today’s feature post.
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Posted on October 16, 2015, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged abner doubleday, Atlanta Braves, baseball hall of fame, bud selig, cathy ratzenberger, chip caray, cooperstown, derek jeter, doc adams, docadamsbaseball.org, Elysian Fields, harvard, joe simpson, marjorie adams, Nancy Adams Downey, new York, new york knickerboxers, Pre-Integration Era Hall Of Fame Ballot. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
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