Alexander Cartwright

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Alexander Cartwright
Alexander Cartwright 1855 Daguerreotype.jpg
Cartwright in 1855
Born: Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr.
(1820 -04-17)April 17, 1820
New York City, US
Died: July 12, 1892(1892-07-12) (aged 72)
Honolulu, O'ahu, Kingdom of Hawai'i
Career highlights and awards
  • Known for invention of the modern game of baseball (disputed)

Alxr J Cartwright 1882 signature.svg
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Induction 1938
Election MethodCentennial Committee

Alexander "Alick" Joy Cartwright Jr. (April 17, 1820 – July 12, 1892) was a founding member of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club in the 1840s. Although he was an inductee of the Baseball Hall of Fame and he was sometimes referred to as a "father of baseball," the importance of his role in the development of the game has been disputed.

New York Knickerbockers

The New York Knickerbockers were one of the first organized baseball teams which played under a set of rules similar to the game today. In 1845, the team was founded by Alexander Cartwright, considered one of the original developers of modern baseball. In 1851, the New York Knickerbockers wore the first ever recorded baseball uniforms.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Professional sports hall of fame in New York, U.S.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an American history museum and hall of fame, located in Cooperstown, New York, and operated by private interests. It serves as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, displays baseball-related artifacts and exhibits, and honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. The Hall's motto is "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations."

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.


The rules of the modern game were long considered to have been based on the Knickerbocker Rules developed in 1845 by Cartwright and a committee from the Knickerbockers. However, later research called this scenario into question. [1]

The Knickerbocker Rules are a set of baseball rules formalized by William R. Wheaton and William H. Tucker of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845. They have previously been considered to be the basis for the rules of the modern game, although this is disputed. The rules are informally known as the "New York style" of baseball, as opposed to other variants such as the "Massachusetts Game" and "Philadelphia town ball".

After the myth of Abner Doubleday having invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839 was debunked, Cartwright was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a pioneering contributor, 46 years after his death. [2] [3] Although it has been stated that Cartwright was officially declared the inventor of the modern game of baseball by the 83rd United States Congress on June 3, 1953, [2] [4] [5] [6] the Congressional Record , the House Journal, and the Senate Journal from June 3, 1953, did not mention Cartwright. [7]

Doubleday myth A legendary claim now proven to be untrue.

The Doubleday myth refers to the belief that the sport of baseball was invented in 1839 by future American Civil War general Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. Abner Graves presented a claim that Doubleday invented baseball to the Mills Commission, a group formed in 1905 that sought to prove whether the sport originated in the United States or was a variation of rounders. Graves' evidence was accepted by the Commission, and in 1908 it named Doubleday as the creator of baseball. The claim eventually received criticism, and most modern baseball historians consider it to be false. The myth nevertheless led to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's being located in Cooperstown.

Abner Doubleday Union Army general

Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union major general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his relief by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade caused lasting enmity between the two men. In San Francisco, after the war, he obtained a patent on the cable car railway that still runs there. In his final years in New Jersey, he was a prominent member and later president of the Theosophical Society.

Cooperstown, New York Village in New York, United States

Cooperstown is a village in and county seat of Otsego County, New York, United States. Most of the village lies within the town of Otsego, but some of the eastern part is in the town of Middlefield. It is located at the southern end of the historic Otsego Lake and is in the Central New York Region of New York.

Early life and work

Cartwright was born in 1820 to Alexander Cartwright Sr. (1784–1855), a merchant sea captain, and Esther Rebecca Burlock Cartwright (1792–1871). Alexander Jr. had six siblings. He first worked at the age of 16 in 1836 as a clerk for a Wall Street broker, later doing clerical work at the Union Bank of New York. After hours, he played bat-and-ball games in the streets of Manhattan with volunteer firefighters. Cartwright himself was a volunteer, first with Oceana Hose Company No. 36, and then Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12. [8] Cartwright's ancestor Edward Cartwright immigrated from Devonshire, England to New England around 1661. [9] [10] Cartwright married Eliza Van Wie, from Albany, on June 2, 1842. [8]

Wall Street street in Manhattan

Wall Street is an eight-block-long street running roughly northwest to southeast from Broadway to South Street, at the East River, in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, the American financial services industry, or New York–based financial interests.

Bat-and-ball games field games played by two opposing teams

Bat-ballgames are field games played by two opposing teams. The teams alternate between "batting" (offensive) roles, sometimes called "in at bat", and "out in the field" (defensive), or simply in and out. Only the batting team may score, but teams have equal opportunities in both roles. The game is counted rather than timed.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

A fire destroyed the Union Bank in 1845, forcing Cartwright to find other work. He became a bookseller with his brother, Alfred. [8]

Knickerbocker Base Ball Club

The New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club, circa 1847. Cartwright at the top middle. The identification of Cartwright has been disputed. New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club, circa 1847.jpg
The New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club, circa 1847. Cartwright at the top middle. The identification of Cartwright has been disputed.
Early baseball game played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey (lithograph by Currier and Ives) Baseball1866.JPG
Early baseball game played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey (lithograph by Currier and Ives)

One of the earliest known established clubs was the Gotham Base Ball Club, who played a brand of bat-and-ball game often called "town ball" or "round ball," but in New York more usually "base ball," somewhat similar to but not identical to the English sport of rounders, on a field at 4th Avenue and 27th Street. In 1837, Gotham member William R. Wheaton drew up rules converting this playground game into a more elaborate and interesting sport to be played by adults. In 1842, Cartwright led the establishment of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (named after the Knickerbocker Fire Engine Company), a breakaway group from the Gothams.

Town ball, townball, or Philadelphia town ball, is a bat-and-ball, safe haven game played in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was similar to rounders and was a precursor to modern baseball. In some areas—such as Philadelphia and along the Ohio River and Mississippi River—the local game was called Town Ball. In other regions the local game was named "base", "round ball", "base ball", or just "ball"; after the development of the "New York game" in the 1840s it was sometimes distinguished as the "New England game" or "Massachusetts baseball". The players might be schoolboys in a pasture with improvised balls and bats, or young men in organized clubs. As baseball became dominant, town ball became a casual term to describe old fashioned or rural games similar to baseball.

Rounders Bat-and-ball team sport originating in Britain and Ireland

Rounders is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams. Rounders is a striking and fielding team game that involves hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a rounded end wooden, plastic or metal bat. The players score by running around the four bases on the field.

In 1845, a committee from the new club including Wheaton (but not Cartwright) drew up rules resembling those of the Gothams. The major precepts included the stipulations that foul territories were to be introduced for the first time, and the practice of retiring a runner by hitting him with a thrown ball was forbidden. [12] Cartwright is also erroneously credited for introducing flat bases at uniform distances, three strikes per batter, and nine players in the outfield. [13] However, modern scholarship has cast doubt on the originality of these rules, as information has come to light about the New York clubs that predated the Knickerbockers, in particular the rules devised by William R. Wheaton for the Gotham Club in 1837. Baseball historian Jeffrey Kittel has concluded that none of the Knickerbocker Rules of 1845 was original, with the possible exception of three-out innings. [14] As MLB's Official Historian John Thorn wrote, Cartwright has "a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame on which every word of substance is false. Alex Cartwright did not set the base paths at ninety feet, the sides at nine men, or the game at nine innings." [15]

The first clearly documented match between two baseball clubs under these rules took place on June 19, 1846, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. In this match, the Knickerbockers lost to the "New York nine" (probably the parent Gotham Club) by a score of 23 to 1. [16] Some authors have also questioned the supposed "first game" under the new rules. The Knickerbockers' scorebook shows intra-club games during 1845; the New York Base Ball Club played at least three games against a Brooklyn club in 1845 also, but the rules used are unknown. Those who have studied the score-book have concluded that the differences in the games of 1845 and 1846, compared with the specifications of the Knickerbocker rules, are minimal.[ citation needed ]


Cartwright's tombstone in Oahu Cemetery, Honolulu OahuCemetery-AlexanderJoyCartwrightJr-tombstone.JPG
Cartwright's tombstone in Oahu Cemetery, Honolulu

In 1849, Cartwright headed to California for the gold rush, and then continued on to work and live in the Kingdom of Hawaii. His family came to join him in 1851: wife Eliza Van Wie, son DeWitt (1843–1870), daughter Mary (1845–1869), and daughter Catherine (Kate) Lee (1849–1851). In Hawaii, sons Bruce Cartwright (1853–1919) and Alexander Joy Cartwright III (1855–1921) were born. Some secondary sources claim Cartwright set up a baseball field on the island of Oahu at Makiki Field in 1852, but Nucciarone states that before 1866, the modern game of baseball was not known or even played in Honolulu. [17] Also, she states that during Cartwright's lifetime he was not declared or documented as an originator of baseball in Hawaii. [17]

Cartwright in later life as fire chief Alexander Cartwright (PP-69-3-004).jpg
Cartwright in later life as fire chief

Cartwright served as fire chief of Honolulu from 1850 through June 30, 1863. [18] He was an advisor to King David Kalākaua and Queen Emma. Cartwright died on July 12, 1892, six months before the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. One of the leaders of the overthrow movement was Lorrin A. Thurston, who played baseball with classmate Alexander Cartwright III at Punahou School. He was buried in Oahu Cemetery. [16]


Cartwright's plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Alexander Cartwright HOF plaque.jpg
Cartwright's plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

After about two decades of controversy, invention of America's "national game" of baseball was attributed to Abner Doubleday by the Mills Commission (1905–1907). Some baseball historians promptly cried foul and others joined throughout the 20th century.[ citation needed ] Cartwright was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.

New York City librarian Robert W. Henderson documented Cartwright's contributions to baseball in his 1947 book Bat, Ball, and Bishop. [19] Although there is no question that Cartwright was a prominent figure in the early development of baseball, some students of baseball history have suggested that Henderson and others embellished Cartwright's role. The primary complaint is that touting Cartwright as the "true" inventor of the modern game was an effort to find an alternative single individual to counter the "invention" of baseball by Abner Doubleday. [15]

Cartwright was the subject of a 1973 biography, The Man Who Invented Baseball, by Harold Peterson. [20] He was the subject of two biographies written in 2009. Jay Martin's Live All You Can: Alexander Joy Cartwright & the Invention of Modern Baseball supports Cartwright as the inventor of baseball, while Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend by Monica Nucciarone credits Cartwright as one of the game's pioneers but not its sole founder. [21] [22] The 2004 discovery of a newspaper interview with fellow Knickerbocker founder William R. Wheaton cast doubt on Cartwright's role. Wheaton stated that most of the rules long attributed to Cartwright and the Knickerbockers had in fact been developed by the older Gotham Club before the Knickerbockers' founding. [15]

In 1938, Makiki Field in Honolulu was renamed Cartwright Field. [23] The Cartwright Cup is awarded to the Hawaii state high school baseball champions each year. [24]

1857 Laws of Base Ball

In 2016, experts verified the authenticity of a set of documents titled "Laws of BaseBall" written in 1857 by New York Knickerbockers president Daniel "Doc" Adams after a discussion with executives of 14 other New York-area clubs. The documents established the rules of the game, including - for the first time - nine innings, nine players on the field and 90-foot basepaths. Cartwright was not a participant at the 1857 meeting, as he was living in Hawaii. [25]

See also

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  1. Hershberger, Richard. "The Creation of the Alexander Cartwright Myth". The Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  2. 1 2 Ty Cobb: Safe at Home. Globe Pequot. 2008. ISBN   978-0-7627-4480-0.
  3. "Alexander Cartwright". Official website of Alexander Cartwright. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05.
  4. Alice Low and John O'Brien (2009). The Fastest Game on Two Feet: And Other Poems About How Sports Began. Holiday House. ISBN   978-0-8234-1905-0.
  5. "Year In Review : 1953 National League". Baseball Almanac.
  6. Jim Lilliefors (2009-07-01). Ball Cap Nation: A Journey Through the World of America's National Hat. Clerisy Press. ISBN   978-1-57860-411-1.
  7. Berenbak, Adam (Fall 2014). "Henderson, Cartwright, and the 1953 U.S. Congress". Baseball Research Journal. Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 Monica Nucciarone. "Alexander Cartwright". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  9. "The American Game". SIU Press via Google Books.
  10. Live All You Can: Alexander Joy Cartwright and the Invention of Modern Baseball By Jay Martin
  11. The identification of Cartwright in this image is at least controversial. Articles seriously challenging this identification can be found in Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) newsletters at "Just Another Misidentified Baseball Photo?". Society of American Baseball Research. October 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2012. and at " So, are there any Knickerbockers in that 1840’s half-plate daguerreotype?". Society of American Baseball Research. March 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  12. "Alexander Cartwright: First Modern Game of Baseball 1845". Baseball Historian. Archived from the original on 12 July 2000.
  13. Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game. Random House Digital, Inc. 2008-12-24. p. 21. ISBN   978-0-307-49406-1.
  14. Kittel, Jeffrey. "Evolution or Revolution? A Rule-By-Rule Analysis of the 1845 Knickerbocker Rules" . Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 Thorn, John, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: the Secret History of the Early Game New York: Simon & Schuster (2011)
  16. 1 2 Nucciarone, Monica (2009). "Chapter 2: The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York". Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 12–22. ISBN   978-0-8032-3353-9.
  17. 1 2 Nucciarone, Monica (2009). Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 207. ISBN   978-0-8032-3353-9 . Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  18. "Cartwright, A.J. office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
  19. Robert William Henderson (1947). Ball, bat and bishop: the origin of ball games. Rockport Press.
  20. Thorn, John (March 12, 2011). "Debate Over Baseball's Origins Spills Into Another Century". The New York Times . Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  21. Bailey, James. "Dueling Cartwright biographies offer differing views of his contributions". Baseball America . Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  22. Nucciarone, Monica (2009). Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 229. ISBN   978-0-8032-3353-9 . Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  23. Nucciarone, Monica (2009). Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 218. ISBN   978-0-8032-3353-9 . Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  24. "Cartwright Cup for state baseball champ unveiled today". The Honolulu Advertiser . May 6, 2007. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  25. "'Laws of Base Ball' documents dated 1857 establish new founder of sport". ESPN. 8 April 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2016.