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Rob Neyer: Cartwright


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So how did Cartwright get elected to the Hall of Fame in 1938. Largely through the efforts of his son Bruce and especially his grandson Bruce Jr., the latter of whom actually invented whole baseball-related passages for posthumous insertion into Cartwright?s Gold Rush diary, the original of which is actually ?devoid of any remark about baseball."
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Much of the early history of baseball is embellished or just made up. Baseball powers-that-be (or at least the powers-that-were) seemed exceptionally open to the flimsiest stories that made baseball into a wholly American, moral, upright, upstanding, and wonderful thing. I think we all know now that the Cooperstown genesis story was almost certainly fictional, that Abner Doubleday never once mentioned baseball in any of his well-cataloged writings.

But Alexander Cartwright was involved with the early game, at least as played by codifed rules and by adults. Even if his kids took some liberties with the stories. So he seems to be as good a representative of the pre-Civil War game in the Hall as anyone.

Also, not really forgiving anyone, but fact checking and the idea that your stories had to 100% check out is a relatively new thing. Especially in sports. I think you'd read books and newspaper articles from even 30, 40, 50 years ago about baseball that essentially take legend and third-hand rumors as hard fact. Some of that was just a lack of sources, this was decades before the internet. Even basic stats were hard or impossible to come by for the voters in the early years of the Hall. It was 1969 before the first real, comprehensive Baseball Encyclopedia with league leaders and career totals was published.

Also, Baseball in the Garden of Eden is wonderful, and John Thorn is a treasure.

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