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No props for Doubleday....

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  • No props for Doubleday....

    Doubleday boosters remembers war exploits, not baseball

    11/27/2003 WCBS-TV Channel 2

    BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (AP) Bars, highways and, yes, baseball fields here and in Cooperstown get named for Abner Doubleday, and it's because of something he didn't do.

    The village native almost certainly didn't invent baseball. But he certainly fired a cannon ball or two as a career Army artillery officer who rose to a division commander for the Union during the Civil War.

    The Abner Doubleday Society, located in this village about 30 miles north of Albany, is dedicated to remembering the man and his Civil War legacy. But not many people care any more and the society is about to disband because members are too old and few to carry on.

    ``It's sorrowful,'' said Glen Armitage, president of the local organization.

    The society focuses on Doubleday the dutiful Civil War general rather than the flashier story that he invented baseball.

    ``He never claimed during his lifetime to have anything to do with
    baseball,'' Armitage said. ``He has been completely forgotten for what he was, which was a hero of the Civil War.''

    The few remaining members of the society have been unable to recruit new members.

    ``Only about four are interested and active,'' said Armitage, who has led the group for about 15 years. ``The average age of the board of directors is probably 74 or 75.''

    ``We just felt that, with such a small nucleus, we couldn't go on,'' said Jean Puckhaber, a board member and the village historian.

    Armitage, 73, said he's tried to recruit new members through presentations on the Civil War to Ballston Spa seventh-grade students for the last few years. He said his presentation in the schools will continue after the organization disbands.

    ``It's sad we cant get any young people, but they have so much to do,'' said village history consultant Chris Morley, 81, another of the active members.

    The Doubleday Society was formed about 1976, when a state historical marker was placed in front of the house where Doubleday is said to have been born. The marker identifies him as both inventor of baseball and a Civil War hero.
    The late Irene Wood, a former Milton town historian, founded the society and emphasized the baseball story.

    Morley's office in the basement of the village hall has a large advertising sign for a one-time bar just outside the village called Abner Doubleday's, and a small photograph of the general.

    Doubleday was born here on July 20, 1819. But his family moved to Auburn in central New York when he was 3.

    It's in dispute whether he was actually born in the Washington Street
    cottage where the historical marker stands, or in a long-gone building
    associated with the Sans Souci, the most prominent village hotel of that era.

    Doubleday graduated from West Point in 1842 and fought in the Mexican War in 1848. He was chief of artillery at Fort Sumter, the Union base in the harbor of Charleston, S.C. The siege at the fort was the first fighting of the Civil War in 1861.

    In Doubleday's memoirs, he claimed to have fired the first Union shot of the war.

    The story that Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839 is in
    question, though it was strong enough to lead to the establishment of the Baseball Hall of Fame there in the 1930s.

    The story went that Doubleday invented baseball while on a break from West Point. The story came from a commission on the game's origin in 1905, which was headed by then-National League President Abraham Mills. Mills, himself a Civil War veteran, likely knew Doubleday, who had died in 1893.

    The commission determined that, according to the evidence available,
    Doubleday was responsible for the modern version of baseball.

    During the Civil War, Doubleday was a division commander in some of the
    fiercest battles of 1862 and 1863. He assumed command of the lead corps on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, after the corps commander was killed, and before the rest of the Union army arrived that evening.

    ``The corps for the greater part of a day held off [Gen. Robert E. ] Lee's entire army,'' Armitage said.

    Union commanding Gen. George Meade relieved Doubleday of corps command and sent him back to Washington, and he never held another field command.

    ``He was heartbroken over that,'' Armitage said.

    The society plans a permanent monument to Doubleday as its departure gift, modeled after Doubleday's tomb at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. It will be placed in Iron Spring Park on Front Street.

    ``Hopefully it will get somebody to want to read more about General
    Doubleday,'' Armitage said.
    Mike "Dusty" Chapman

    Member: CWT, CVBT, NTHP, MOC, KBA, Stonewall Jackson House, Mosby Heritage Foundation

    "I would have posted this on the preservation folder, but nobody reads that!" - Christopher Daley

    The AC was not started with the beginner in mind. - Jim Kindred