Debunking the Abner Doubleday Myth: Baseball as Spontaneous Order

It turns out that Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball. The true story of the game’s origins is actually quite mundane — it evolved over time as a messy, Hayekian spontaneous order. No one person can claim to have invented the modern version of baseball.

The story of how Abner Doubleday was given his mythical status, however, is immensely entertaining. Apparently it came from a crazy person — literally — who wrote a letter to the founder of Spalding sporting goods. Spalding spread the story because he wanted people to believe that baseball was a uniquely American game, invented by an American. People were eager to believe him; some still are.

Joe Posnanski tells the tale well, as he does with everything he writes. Read the whole thing. It will make you laugh, and you will learn something about how easy it is for tall tales to become accepted fact. Lessons abound for the public policy world.

Photo credit: kfcempress’s flickr photostream.