Baseball History and Rural AmericaHistorians in the News
tags: historiography, baseball, Rural History
In the beginning, Abner Doubleday established the rules for baseball on a field outside Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. And the future Civil War general saw what he had made, and it was good.
Not so fast, say the debunkers, who discovered that there was no way Doubleday could have invented baseball in 1839 because he was a student at West Point at the time.
Historians have challenged not just facts but interpretations, too, like the one that in its early days, baseball was a rural, pastoral game. By focusing on the development of baseball in and around New York City during the 1840s and 1850s, they have argued that it was actually an urban pursuit.
Still, historian David Vaught argues, the American pastime has a long rural and small-town history. “Baseball came along at the right time to satisfy farmers’ insatiable appetites for achievement in a world of change,” he writes. Additionally, the Cooperstown myth is important in its own right.