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Baseball Pioneers: Henry Chadwick

By Patrick Mondout

Henry Chadwick was the preeminent writer and popularizer of baseball during the 19th Century. Unlike Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright, he was known as the "Father of Baseball" is his own lifetime. And unlike at least one of the other two, he deserved the honor.

At a glance...
HENRY CHADWICK
Hall of Fame Facts
Born October 5, 1824
Exeter, England
Died April 20, 1908
Brooklyn, NY
Inducted 1938
Executive/Pioneer
Affiliations
1844-? Long Island Star
1856-? Brooklyn Eagle
1856-? New York Times
1858-1888 New York Clipper
1850s Wilkes' Spirit of the Times
1860-81 Beadle's Dime BB Player
18?-1907 Spalding Baseball Guide
?-1861-? Sunday Mercury
HoF Plaque

BASEBALL'S PREEMINENT PIONEER

Writer for Half a Century.
Inventor of the Box Score.
Author of the First Rule Book
in 1858. Chairman of Rules
Committee in First Nation-Wide
Baseball Organization

Articles/Books

We have republished a few of
Chadwick's works:
Books:
1860 Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player
1867 Beadle'
s Dime Base-Ball Player
1868 The Game of Base Ball
1871 Base Ball Manual

Articles:
1867 On Baseball Origins
1867 The National Pastime

His father, James Chadwick, was the editor of the Western Times of Exeter in England, and moved his family to Brooklyn in 1838. His wife, five years his senior, was from Virginia and their daughter Susan was born in 1851.

See also: National Association of Base Ball Players, Defunct Leagues.
See also: (We have posted a number of his books! See list inside red box on right.)

Chadwick is credited with inventing the boxscore, but what he actually did is expand it beyond its cricket—the national pastime before baseball and Chadwick's sport of his youth—roots and into something that even a modern day reader could recognize. He also introduced both the batting average and Earned Run Average (ERA) to the game.

He wrote or edited dozens of baseball guides, starting with Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player in 1860 and ending with the Spalding Guide of 1907. He was on the rules committee for the NABBP and fought for the adoption of the "fly rule" (which abolished the old practice of awarding an out for a ball caught on the first bounce). For the first fifty years of the game, he was the written authority on the game.

He accompanied the Washington Nationals as their official scorer on their landmark tour in 1867 and his reports were published in his own short-lived The Ball Players Chronicle starting with the June 6th edition. The paper was later called the American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes, but lasted less than two years.

For his contributions to the game of Baseball, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the in 1938 along with Alexander Cartwright—the other "father of baseball" (though Cartwright's achievements are greatly exaggerated).

Henry Chadwick is interred in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. There stands a tall marble slab surmounted by a huge baseball. On one of its sides are carved two bats crossed over a glove. The small bronze nameplate facing the low mound bears the simple inscription: "In Memoriam, Henry Chadwick. Father of Baseball." This bronze tablet is in the shape of a baseball diamond. In the center of the inscription are a quill and fountain pen, in memory of the fact that Chadwick was the sporting editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from the early days of the quill until the advent of the fountain pen. His signature, "Old Chalk," was much beloved by baseball fans.

His writings can be found throughout our site, but here is a sample from 1867:

A Base Ball tourney had been held in Chicago on July 4, 1867, in which the Excelsiors of that city and the Forest City Club, of Rockford, had been the leading contestants. The former had defeated the Forest City nine in two games, by the very close scores of 45-41 in one, and 28-25 in another, when the Forest Citys were invited to meet the Nationals at Chicago on July 25th, a day which proved the most notable of the tour. The contest took place at Dexter Park, before a vast crowd of spectators, the majority of whom looked to see the Nationals have almost a walk-over. In the game A. G. Spalding was pitcher and Ross Barnes shortstop for the Forest City nine; these two afterwards becoming famous as star players of the Boston professional team of the early seventies. Williams was pitcher for the Nationals and Frank Norton catcher. The Nationals took the lead in the first innings by 3 to 2; but in the next two innings they added but five runs to their score, while the Forest Citys added thirteen to theirs, thereby taking the lead by a score of fifteen to eight, to the great surprise of the crowd and the delight of the Rockfords. The Nationals tried hard to recover the lost ground. The final result, however, was the success of the Forest Citys by a score of 29 to 23 in a nine innings game, twice interrupted by rain.

We also have two pieces written some twenty years apart on Chadwick himself. The first is by Thomas William Herringshaw and was published in the Biographical Review of Prominent Men and Women of the Day... in 1888:

HENRY CHADWICK.
Born in 1814.

The founder of the popularity of base ball, and the "authority" in the game, is Henry Chadwick, of Brooklyn, and an Englishman by birth. He is the improver of the game of base ball when it needed improvement; and is the leading writer on the subject of the great popular field sport of this country. Now, in life's decline, he still occasionally takes part in a game of base ball.

In 1844 he entered the ranks of journalism as contributor to a Long Island newspaper. His work throughout a long career as newspaper man has been to report cricket and base ball matters, and he is the author of well-known works on the national game.

Chadwick (on the far right next to Harry Wright) and his cricket-playing friends in 1863.

It was in 1856, he says of his first conception of the work that has made him famous, "when, on returning from an early closing of a cricket match at Fox hall, Hoboken, I chanced to go through the Elysian fields during the progress of a base ball match between the then noted Eagle and Gotham clubs. The game was being sharply played on both sides, and I watched it with deeper interest than any previous match of the kind I had seen. From that period I became an ardent admirer of base ball, and I have devoted my efforts to the improvement of the game and to fostering it in every way I thought likely to promote the object I had in view, which was to build up a national game for Americans, such as cricket was for England."

When Mr. Chadwick was chairman of the committee of rules of the old National League, he revised and improved the playing rules of the game. He continued actively engaged as a member of association conventions until the present National League was organized.

Alfred H. Spink published one of the first serious books on baseball history in 1910. He included profiles of a number of prominent baseball writers. His profile of Chadwick is included below:

In 1870 when I made my first visit to New York I found the metropolitan daily press paying but little attention to baseball. The daily press papers had up to that time devoted but little space to the affairs of the National Game. The term sporting editor or baseball editor was a thing unknown.

Coming to the Capitoline Grounds when a game was to be played was an elderly gentleman, a little above the medium height, who created some comment always by carrying a large score book under his arm and being pointed out as the only man who knew how to score the game in all ots details, and, according to the very latest and up to date methods.

This elderly gentleman was Henry Chadwick, subsequently known the country over as "The Father of Baseball." The men who then knew how to keep the regular box score could be counted on the fingers of the one hand.

Henry Chadwick, who then reported the games for the Brooklyn Eagle; Al. Wright, who worked for the New York Clipper; J. B McCormick of the Cincinnati Enquirer; William Macdonald Spink of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Louis Meacham of the Chicago Tribune, Alfred H. Wright of the Philadelphia Sunday Mercury and George T. Lanigan of the Philadelphia Record, were about the only journalists then in America who knew the game well enough to work out a box score of it.

The box score was really the child of Chadwick. The man who later became the dean of baseball writers of America was in his eighty-fourth year when on April 2, 1908, he passed away at his home n Brooklyn.

He had come to this country from England when a lad of 13, so that he had spent all of his manhood on this side. He brought with him from the mother country a love of outdoor sport that was born in him and in 1856 when he went to work as a reporter on the New York Times he broke away often from the regular routine to attend some outdoor sport and to smuggle some reference to it into the columns of his newspaper. His skill as a writer on sporting topics attracted the attention of Frank Queen, who then owned the New York Clipper, then the leading authority on all sports, and the result was the engagement by, the Clipper in 1858 of Mr. Chadwick to write baseball and cricket, something he did for that publication for thirty years afterwards.

But while engaged on the Clipper from 1858 to 1888 Mr. Chadwick frequently reported the games for the daily newspapers, being often a contributor to the New York Herald and the New York Sun.

When he quit the Clipper in 1888 and moved across the river Mr. Chadwick went to work for the Brooklyn Eagle, and he was with that newspaper almost to the day of his death. While with the Eagle he also acted as a free lance writing letters early and often for the Sporting News, the Sporting Life and Other base-ball journals.

Mr. Chadwick was essentially a home person. I can never remember seeing him away from his home at New York or Brooklyn. When I started the Sporting News in 1884 Mr. Chadwick frequently wrote me, but I always imagined that he had it in for me and for this reason:

Soon after we tried to put baseball on a professional footing in this section we discovered that we could not make the game pay without the Sunday games. Simply for the reason that necessity compelled it I favored the Sunday games.

The proposition was abhorrent to Mr. Chadwick. Brought up in the shadow of the Episcopal Church, Mr. Chadwick had been taught to observe the Sabbath day and to keep it holy and he could not for a moment condone so grave an offense as playing baseball on Sunday. This at least was his position when I tried with others in 1882 to place the first American Association on a paying basis with the aid of the Sunday games.

Ten years later I met Mr. Chadwick one Sunday on the old Ridgewood grounds at Brooklyn. He had come out with others to see the game. I said nothing, but marveled at the appearance of the old gentleman at such a time and place and wondered what had brought about his change of heart. Perhaps, like me, he had bowed to necessity.

That Mr. Chadwick had fairly earned the title of "Father of Baseball" can be easily proven. In the interest a the game he did wonderful work with his pen. Nearly fifty years ago or to he more exact in 1860 he edited Beadle's "Dime Baseball Player." From 1868 to 1880 he was the editor of DeWitt's "Baseball Guide." At about the same period he found time to write "The Art of Batting and Running," the "American Boys' Book of Sports," and many works of the same kind.

In 1881 he became the editor of "Spalding's Official Baseball Guide" and he held that office up to the time of his death. He had written of baseball, championed its cause and helped build it up for a period of fifty-five years, What other baseball writer we should like to know Will ever equal this wonderful record:

As I have already stated Mr. Chadwick passed away on April 20, 1908, and on April 20 1909, the monument erected in his honor in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, was unveiled in the presence of thirty persons. Among these were Miss Caylor, a daughter of O. P. Caylor, at one time a famous baseball writer and the unveiling of the tribute to the "Father of the Game" was performed by this young lady.

At the unveiling Mr. William Hudson, an old friend of Mr. Chadwick, said: "To hold up an ideal and to adhere to it with a fidelity that knows no lessening of grip, is to pursue the pathway of progress and to be useful to your day and generation.

"This, it seems to me, to be the pertinent reflection as we gather about this sculptured stone you have erected to the memory of Henry Chadwick.

"You have inscribed on the shaft that he was the father of baseball. From the beginning of the days of baseball to the end of his own days, Henry Chadwick stood in the light of a loving father who never evaded the responsibilities of parentage.

"I do not mean that he was such father because he invented the game or made it. Nor do I believe that you who have erected this monument mean that he was its inventor. Fifty years ago the game was a development. And fifty years from now it will yet be a development.

"Many minds have had their share in this labor. It is by no means the work of one mind or of one pair of hands. But in looking back over his career of more than half a century in the light of forty years of intimate acquaintance with him, that insistence, that doughty battle he waged with tongue and pen for a clean game, honorably played, looms up to me as the great achievement of his life.

"From that day, when crossing a Hoboken field to a game of cricket he stopped to watch some boys at play at rounders and had that vision of an improved game, glorified in the baseball of our day until he laid down his pen for the last time, our departed friend ever held true to that ideal of a clean game, honorably played, in which the manly qualities should be uppermost in a strife that should see no abatement of endeavor.

"This monument has been erected by many baseball leagues, and in doing so, they make acknowledgement of all this. As the veil is drawn from its face, they pay this tribute to one man's devotion to an ideal—to one who early assumed this watchful attitude of an affectionate parent, who chided and corrected, praised and inspired—a parent's work. You do well to write on this stone, ''The Father of Base-ball."

The committee which had charge of the building of the monument over the grave of Mr. Chadwick consisted of, Chas. Ebbets of Brooklyn, Charles Murphy, of Chicago, and George B. Dovey, of Boston.

The monument has been erected on a beautiful plot suitable for three graves, near the Ninth Avenue Twentieth street entrance to Greenwood cemetery.

The location was especially selected by Mr. Chadwick and the plot was presented to the veteran baseball writer by his lifelong friend, A. G. Spalding.

Pat Powers, President of the Eastern League, suggested that a monument should be erected in memory of Mr. Chadwick and as a result, Mr. Spalding, Pat Powers and other baseball admirers of the departed writer contributed the amount necessary to build the monument.

Henry Chadwick, known throughout America as the "Father of Baseball," died on April 20, 1908 at his home in Brooklyn, New York. He was born in Jessamine Cottage, St. Thomas Exeter, England, on October 26, 1824. So he died in his eighty-fourth year and after devoting more than fifty years to writing up happenings on home and foreign baseball diamonds.

 

National Association sources/bibliography:
Baseball: The Early Years by Harold Seymour.
Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search For The Roots Of The Game by David Block.
Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime during the Civil War by George B. Kirsch.
Blackguards and Red Stockings by William J. Ryczek
The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 by Marshall D. Wright.
Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball by Warren Goldstein.
When Johnny Came Sliding Home: The Post-Civil War Baseball Boom, 1865-1870 by William J. Ryczek

David Nemec, the tireless 19th Century Baseball researcher, has also written a novel called Early Dreams, which takes place during this era and features real-life characters such as Cap Anson, George Wright, and Henry Lucas.

General Baseball History sources/bibliography:
Baseball: A History of America's Game
by Benjamin G. Rader.
Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns (PBS DVD)
The Formation, Sometimes Absorption and Mostly Inevitable Demise of 18 Professional Baseball Organizations, 1871 to Present by David Pietrusza.
The Great 19th Century Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, 2nd Edition by David Nemec.
Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 by Dean A. Sullivan.
Middle Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1900-1948 by Dean A. Sullivan.
Late Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball 1945-1972 by Dean A. Sullivan
Past Time: Baseball as History by Jules Tygiel
America's National Game: Historic Facts Concerning the Beginning, Evolution, Development and Popularity of Baseball by Albert Spalding
Total Baseball: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia by John Thorn, et al.

 



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--Patrick Mondout



 

CHADWICK

There is no man from the 19th Century that baseball historians owe more to than Henry Chadwick.


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