Group hoping to get former Ridgefielder Adams into baseball Hall

A former Ridgefielder honored in Cooperstown? One Connecticut group is intent on making it happen.

The Hartford-based Friends of Vintage Base Ball has begun a petition drive to get the Historical Overview Committee of the Baseball Writers Association of America to consider baseball pioneer Daniel “Doc” Adams for its screening review process in September.

The committee will identify 10 candidates for the Pre-Integration (1947) Committee to choose from when it holds National Baseball Hall of Fame elections in December at baseball’s annual winter meetings.

A petition for Adams is needed because of the early timeline of his contributions, which occurred in the mid-1800s. The overview committee, however, will be looking at individuals whose accomplishments and contributions occurred between 1876 and 1946, technically leaving Adams out of the discussion.

Adams, who was born in 1814 in New Hampshire, moved to Ridgefield in 1867 after retiring as a physician in New York. He became the first president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank and the first treasurer of the Ridgefield Library before moving to New Haven in 1888. He died in 1899 and is buried in New Haven.

According to baseball historian John Thorn, Adams, a physician in New York, began playing baseball in 1939, joining the New York Base Ball club the following year. In October 1845, Adams accepted an invitation to join the fledgling New York Knickerbockers Base Ball club, which had organized the previous month.

“I was always interested in athletics while in college and afterward,” said Adams in an interview given when he was 81, parts of which appeared in Thorn’s article on Adams for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). “And soon after going to New York I began to play base ball just for exercise, with a number of other young medical men.”

At first, the Knickerbockers played only intra-squad games, with varying numbers of players on each side. But in 1846, Adams was named to a three-member committee that set up the first recorded base ball game, matching the Knickerbockers against the New York Base Ball Club. The contest took place on June 19, 1846, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J., with the New York Base Ball Club prevailing, 23-1, in four innings. Adams, a left-handed hitter, batted second for the Knickerbockers and made one out.

Adams was chosen as president of the Knickerbockers that same year and was selected to head the committee that revised the cub’s constitution and by-laws in 1848.

In addition to his playing and organizational duties, Adams also handmade the baseballs for the Knickerbockers. The baseballs were light and could not be thrown far, leading Adams to create the position of shortstop in order to retrieve outfield throws.

“I used to play shortstop,” said Adams in the interview that appeared in Thorn’s SABR entry, “and I believe I was the first one to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered.”

Adams was elected president of the first Base Ball Convention in 1857 and also headed the Committee on Rules and Regulations that year. Under Adams’ leadership, the committee instituted several rules that are still used today: Nine equal innings for a full game, a 90-feet distance between the four bases, and nine players on each team.

Adams was elected as Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Regulations during the March 1858 Base Ball Convention, at which the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. He resigned from that post and the Knickerbockers in 1862, moving to Ridgefield five years later.

He played in his last base ball game in September 1875 as part of an old-timers’ contest arranged by formed Knickerbocker James Whyte Davis.

In Ridgefield, Adams lived with his family in the Bradley house on Main Street, where Ballard Park now stands. Although he was no longer a practicing physician, Adams wasn’t big on down time. In addition to his work with the Ridgefield Savings Bank and the Ridgefield Library, Adams served in the State House of Representatives in 1870; was a member of the building committee for a new town house; and helped form the town’s Land Improvement Association.

But more than 166 years after he played in that first recorded baseball game for the Knickerbockers, Adams is becoming increasingly noted for his long-overlooked contributions to the sport. For the Friends of Vintage Base Ball, a spot in Cooperstown would serve as proper recognition for Adams’s work.

At least one Ridgefield baseball lover agrees.

“I’m hoping he gets in,” said David Scott, who was involved in the town’s Little League program for several decades. “Doc Adams is one of the founding fathers of baseball. His contributions are enormous. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Notes: An online link to Adams’s petition page can be found on the Friends of Vintage Base Ball website at friendsofvintagebaseball.org.

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