The official historian for Major League Baseball has dethroned Alexander Cartwright Jr. as the inventor of modern baseball in an adapted excerpt of a new book that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times.
The U.S. Congress officially declared Cartwright Jr. as the inventor of the modern game in 1953 — but according to MLB historian John Thorn, that honor should go to Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth.
"Cartwright’s plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame declares he set the bases 90 feet apart and established nine innings as a game and nine players as a team. He did none of these things, and every other word of substance on his plaque is false," Thorn wrote.
"Adams, known as Doc, set the base paths at 90 feet, among other notable innovations, including creating the position of shortstop," he added.
"Wheaton created the Knickerbocker rules by copying a set he had drawn up for an earlier ball club, the Gothams, in 1837.
"As to nine men and nine innings — and perhaps even more — these may be credited to Wadsworth."
Thorn, 63, denied he was on a mission to rewrite the history books.
"If a tale is told often enough, it starts to resemble the truth," Thorn told MLB.com.
"I don’t want anyone to think of me as a crusader on behalf of causes. I’m only interested in setting the story straight, and in recognizing other stories for what they are, some of which are legend."
The Times article is an adapted excerpt from Thorn’s new book, "Baseball in the Garden of Eden," which examines the origins of baseball.