November 2015

November 11, 2015-With the rainy chill of November settling in, we are in that brief period of mourning that accompanies the end of the baseball season. My beloved Mets gave a convincing postseason performance, until all of their flaws became clear and the magic disappeared in five quick games to the Royals. Despite the lopsided four games to one result, it is worth noting that of the 52 innings played in the Series, sixteen of those innings were tied. Of the remaining 36, the Mets held the lead in 24 of them. With a core of five talented, young starting pitchers (when Zack Wheeler returns in June), one cannot help but consider the future bright for the Metros.

In fact, one need not waste much time to mourn the end of 2015 no matter your team, as the the bird called 2016 already begins to stir from the ashes. It is no mistake that the capital of Arizona, home state of the noteworthy Fall League that is currently three weeks into its season, is Phoenix. In team offices around the country, the wheeling and dealing of the Hot Stove is slowly rolling into motion. And, most notably to The Hall Ball, it is election time in Cooperstown.

Just yesterday, the ballot for this year’s election by the BBWAA was officially released. Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman seem likely first ballot shoo-ins, though Hoffman may have to wait a year while baseball continues to debate the role of the closer. The math also looks good for Mike Piazza, whose percentages have been climbing steadily since he was first eligible. Casting aside all superstition, I don’t mind saying that the prospect of having the Mets appear in the World Series the same year they finally get their second inductee in the Hall (only Tom Seaver wears a Mets cap on his plaque), is enticing.

The other portion of Hall voting, the Veteran’s Committee, announced their slate at the beginning of the postseason. This year’s ballot, of the awkwardly titled Pre-Integration Era, features some prominent names from 19th century baseball, a favorite time period of mine. Bill Dahlen, Harry Stovey, and Chris von der Ahe all had indelible impacts in the nascent years of Major League Baseball, and could be considered legitimate inductees. Interestingly though, in a nearly unprecedented move, the name that looms the largest for me never spent a moment of his life affiliated with MLB. In fact, he likely never made a dime from the game, with the exception of charging clubs for the balls he provided.

Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams was an influential early member of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club, the team that for many years was credited as being the “first” baseball team. We now know that there were many teams that came before the Knicks, though none kept as meticulous a record. The Knicks also played a vital role in the formalization and adaptation of the rules of the game as we understand them today. In appreciation of this role, founding Knickerbocker Alexander Cartwright was elected into the Hall in 1938. To this day, other than pioneer scribe Henry Chadwick, Cartwright remains the only member of the Hall who was never affiliated with either the Negro Leagues or Major League Baseball.

Unfortunately, virtually everything on Cartwright’s plaque is a lie. He did play a role in bringing the game to the West Coast and he definitely heavily influenced its introduction to the state of Hawaii. But all of the rest, the distance between the base paths, the number of innings and players per side in a game, should be credited to other men, the most predominant of which is Adams. In fact, by the time these rules were adopted, Cartwright had left New York and headed out west, spreading the gospel of the game as he he mined for gold in them thar hills of San Francisco.

It was Doc Adams who declared the bases should be set 90 feet apart, who was instrumental in the adaptation of the fly rule (originally, a ball caught after a single bounce was called an out), who served as club president and representative at the early, rule-establishing conventions of the pre-professional National Association, and who also invented the role of shortstop. And these are just the highlights. Few in the Hall can boast of as influential a resume.

I have gotten a chance to know Marjorie Adams, Doc’s great-granddaughter. I was first introduced to her at the 2014 Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference, where she played the role of Doc in an “interview” with historian Gary “Pops” O’Maxfield. She has been instrumental in the campaign to get Doc his recognition. Nicknamed “Cranky” (a double entendre on an old-fashioned term for a baseball fan as well her irascible personality), Marjorie has the kind of tenacity you would want in an advocate. Her story was covered in a recent New York Times and if Doc is elected, she is perhaps the one who deserves the most credit.

It is not often that I get personally invested in who does or does not get elected. It’s a complicated question with rarely universally accepted answers. But, I have to admit that I hope to take the ball back to Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, burial place of Adams. Yankee (and Met) architect George Weiss is buried there and was photographed for the project in September, 2010.

This time, it is my wish to take a photo of the ball with the kin of an immortal by my side. I had this honor once, in Cuba, at the grave of Martin Dihigo, and it brings a profound feeling of poignancy to the moment. The goal of the project has always been to keep the stories of all of the members of the Hall alive. But, no legacy can match that of a child, and Marjorie is a direct link to the story of Doc and thus, the story of baseball.