Doc Adams – World’s First Shortstop
During a talk at the Simsbury Historical Society in Simsbury, CT on baseball during the civil war a few weeks ago, a member of the audience asked a question on a member of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, Daniel “Doc” Lucius Adams.
Doc Adams played ball with the old Knickerbocker club in 1845, well before the war, and I was not sure if I wanted to mention him in my talk. He helped establish exact measurements (90 feet) for the bases and (45 feet) for the pitcher instead of arbitrarily walking off ‘paces’.
I had read a tantalizing newspaper interview with Doc Adams when he was much older in the late nineteenth century. Doc was talking about the difficulty the early game went through with equipment, team practice and fan support. For Doc Adams, baseball was a recreation, not anything like we view the business and history of the sport today.
Later in life, Doc was intrigued by how his youthful fancy with a mere game became such a serious endeavor in America. Doc left the game in 1862 and moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut.
He very well may have been the first shortstop to play baseball. Realizing the need to relay the very light, hand made balls being used then in the mid-1840’s, back from the outfield, Doc became the ninth fielder, the shortstop. The position would evolve with the game’s evolution. Doc never invented the position with a future oriented vision of what he had done. He was too practical to dote on it.
As I was explaining how the early Knickerbockers played baseball, a woman asked me about Daniel Lucius Adams. She then said, very matter of factly, that Daniel Lucius was her great grandfather.
I was stunned by her revelation.
After my talk, I met Ms Marjorie Adams and I could see in her the material that Doc Adams was made from. She was imbued with the pure Yankee dynamics which I had not seen since meeting Peggy Hepburn many years ago. She was simply amazing!
Marjorie arranged to meet my bride Karen O’Maxfield and myself on the next week at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, where my bride, The Ultimate Sleuth, had located Doc’s grave.
Marjorie has been very gracious in sending me “goodies” from her ancestors, including photos, letters and her own oral history into the background of the game’s first shortstop.
Did I mention that Daniel Lucius was a New Hampshire lad whose parents came from a Massachusetts town outside of Boston? It was the same town Albert Spalding lived in many years after, the same Albert Spalding who contrived the Doubleday myth commission. Ironic?
They may call modern baseball the New York game, but rest assured, it was developed by New England stock!
How cool is that?