Who invented baseball? $3.2 million documents at Laguna Niguel auction house might finally prove it – OCRegister

On one end of baseball evolution is the supremely talented Mike Trout, and on the other is a couple of pieces of paper from 1857 under lock and key at an auction house in Laguna Niguel.

The handwritten “Laws of Base Ball” documents just sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for $3,263,246, prompting SCP Auctions Vice President Dan Imler to predict that baseball will never be the same.

That’s a pretty good return on investment for an initial purchase of $12,000. But more on the transaction in a bit.

“Someday soon, the average baseball fan will answer the question, ‘Who is the founding father of baseball’ with the name Doc Adams,” Imler said. “This is not only the greatest manuscript in the world of sports, this is one of the greatest manuscripts in American history.”

Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams was the president of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club when he jotted down the rules of match play for presentation at the Base Ball Convention of 1857.

Until that moment, baseball had been a pastoral, recreational sport. Teams didn’t always have the same amount of players. Fields weren’t always configured the same way. Sometimes games were decided by the first team to score 21 runs.

Adams’ Laws of Base Ball established that the bases would be 90 feet apart, there would be nine players per side and that a regulation game would be nine innings. Some of the original rules didn’t last, like the one putting the pitcher’s mound 45 feet from home plate.

Today’s mound is 60 feet, six inches from home plate. But you get the idea.

“When Doc Adams set to work in late 1856, none of these aspects of the game were settled,” said Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn. “No earlier baseball manuscript of this significance has ever come onto the open market. In 1857, baseball made its great leap forward, these are the documents that reveal what it was like to be present at the creation.”

The documents were sold April 23 as part of an SCP event in which 1,310 items, including Don Drysdale’s 1962 Cy Young award and 1963 World Series ring, were on sale. In total, the sale brought in $7.2 million.

The Laws of Base Ball documents came to the attention of SCP Auctions through an unexpected phone call in 2015.

A man, who has also asked to remain anonymous, said he had purchased the documents for $12,000 at an auction in 1999. They had been stuffed away in his desk drawer for 17 years.

“He didn’t know the full extent of what he had,” Imler said.

Imler and the team at SCP began six months worth of detective work. First, they matched Doc Adams’ handwriting to documents they found in the New York Public Library.

Then, they tested the paper the document was written on. That checked out.

Then, they found Marjorie Adams, the great-great granddaughter of Doc Adams. She has been leading the charge to have her ancestor recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“She was in tears,” Imler said.

The documents might create a big problem for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Enshrined there is baseball’s “Founding Father” Alexander Cartwright, who is credited for establishing the rules of the game.

Thorn said the credit for the creation of the game has wrongly been given to Cartwright.

Adams would supplant Cartwright, who supplanted Abner Doubleday.

“For his role in making baseball the success it is, Doc Adams could now be counted as first among the founding fathers of baseball,” Thorn said.