Marjorie Adams, Who Went to Bat for a Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 72

Marjorie Adams, Who Went to Bat for a Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 72
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Marjorie Adams, Who Went to Bat for a Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 72

Marjorie Adams, Who Went to Bat for a Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 72

Marjorie Adams, who tirelessly promoted her great-grandfather Daniel Adams, a founding father of 19th-century baseball, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, died July 7 in a hospice in Branford, Connecticut. She was 72 years old.

The cause was lung cancer, his nephew Nate Downey said.

Making the cause of her great-grandfather, who was known as Doc (he rightfully bore his nickname, having received a medical degree from Harvard in 1838), became the all-consuming passion of Ms. Adams. She has advocated for him on a website, at conferences, at Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) meetings, and at vintage baseball festivals, where fans play and celebrate the sport, as if it is. acted from the 19th century. She nicknamed herself Cranky, for “cranks”, a vintage term for fans.

“Baseball is the national pastime,” she said in a 2014 interview with SABR Chapter Smoky Joe Wood. “It is important that the historical record is correct. “

That record was a lie for a long time, according to John Thorn, the official baseball historian. Abner Doubleday has for many years been falsely cited as the inventor of baseball. And Alexander Cartwright, who played a role in the evolution of the sport, was credited on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown, NY, with some of the innovations that, in fact, were devised by Adams.

In the 1990s, an article on Adams by Mr. Thorn in Elysian Fields Quarterly, a baseball newspaper, helped Ms. Adams see her great-grandfather as an important figure – and not just as “Daniel, the guy from the baseball “, as it was. known in the Adams family.

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Doc Adams began playing for the pioneer New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club in 1845. While on the team, he established the shortstop position – as an outfield relay, not as a defensive player of ground balls and pop flies. He made his most critical contributions to the game in 1857 during a rule-making convention he chaired.

There he codified some of the fundamentals of modern play, setting the distance between goals at 90 feet, the length of a game in nine innings, and the number of men per team at nine.

Yet Adams has remained obscure to anyone unfamiliar with the early days of baseball. In 2015, as Ms Adams continued her campaign to raise the profile of her great-grandfather, Mr Thorn presented documents on Adams to a member of the Hall of Fame pre-induction committee, who voted on the induction of players, managers, referees and executives from the origins of baseball until 1946, the year before Jackie Robinson crossed the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Adams was put on the committee’s ballot along with nine other candidates.

While waiting for the December vote, Ms Adams told “All I do, the first thing I do when I wake up is think, ‘What’s my next step to help Doc? I’m still talking about Doc. You can’t stop me. She added: “As Babe Ruth said, ‘You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.’ I tell myself that 50 times a day.

Marjorie Putnam Adams was born on December 7, 1948 in Manhattan. Her father, Daniel Putnam Adams, was a banker and her mother, Adelaide (Barkley) Adams, a housewife. After graduating from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, she began a career as a salesperson and interior designer in furniture stores in Manhattan and Connecticut.

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Researching her great-grandfather’s baseball career – an effort that included several visits to Cooperstown – had a natural appeal to Ms Adams.

“I am not an athlete,” she told SABR. “I am passionate about books, passionate about history.” The election of Doc Adams to the Hall, she said, would be “the moment of my life.”

Such was her tenacity in promoting the dignity of her great-grandfather that she once printed cards that read: “Doc Adams: The Real Father of Baseball”. She distributed them to strangers and started conversations with them about it.

“Then she wanted to be fair and honest and printed cards that said, ‘One of the real fathers of baseball,’” Mr. Downey said over the phone. “She made me throw out first.”

Adams came close to being elected when the pre-integration era committee voted in December 2015. He received 10 votes, more than any other candidate, but two less than the required 12.

“She was very disappointed,” said Roger Ratzenberger, a member of the 19th century SABR research committee who assisted Ms Adams in her campaign. “I spoke to him that night and said, ‘Look at the difference now: tonight on all the news channels they’re talking about Doc Adams.’ It was his thing: to draw attention to himself. ‘”

A few months later, Ms. Adams rediscovered new grounds for hope: Documentary evidence of Doc Adams’ role in baseball history was put up for auction. Three surviving pages from “Laws of Baseball,” which were written by Adams and provided a physical record of his rule making at the 1857 convention, were sold for $ 3.26 million.

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Ms Adams, who is survived by a sister, Nancy Adams Downey, believed the “Laws” would elect her great-grandfather to the House at the next scheduled pre-integration committee meeting in 2018. But in July 2016, Hall restructured the panel, renamed it the Early Baseball Era Committee, and deferred its vote until December.

“It’s a shame she couldn’t hang on,” Mr Thorn said over the phone, “because her great-grandfather’s birthday is approaching.”

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