Pioneer's relative fights for his HOF election
Adams, credited with early rules, is on Pre-Integration Era ballot
Marjorie P. Adams doesn't care a thing about cake, cards and ice cream.
When people wish her a happy birthday on Dec. 7, her mind will be far away, in Nashville, Tenn., where the Hall of Fame's 16-member Pre-Integration Era Committee will decide during baseball's Winter Meetings whether her great-grandfather should take his place in Cooperstown next July 24.
Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams, a physician who played for the New York Knickerbockers, is credited with some of the baseball's most important early developments.
He created the position of shortstop, established 90-foot basepaths (1857) and was a leading proponent of the "fly" rule, which eliminated outs being recorded with a catch on one bounce.
Doc Adams is one of 10 names up for election, the results of which won't be announced until Jan. 6.
"It's going to be a long December," said Marjorie Adams, a Connecticut resident. "I'm hoping for the best birthday present in the world. I don't care if it's a month late."
Official MLB historian John Thorn considers Doc Adams one of the five most important figures in pre-professional baseball, and on Feb. 2, 1896, The Sporting News called him the "Father of Base Ball" in a headline for an article describing his memories of the game.
"Adams' accomplishments were well known at the time of his retirement from the Knickerbockers in 1862, but faded thereafter, despite the publication of his own reminiscences in 1896," Thorn said. "After 1908, the question of who might best be called Father of Baseball devolved into a binary dispute, Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright. Adams' role, real as opposed to the fabulist accomplishments of the other two, shrank and disappeared."
While it's generally agreed that baseball has no true father or inventor, Marjorie Adams is determined that her ancestor gets the credit he deserves.
"All I do, the first thing when I wake up is think, "What's my next step to help Doc?' I'm always talking about Doc. You can't stop me," she said. "As Babe Ruth said: 'You just can't beat the person who won't give up.' I say that to myself 50 times a day."
Finalists on the Pre-Integration Era ballot were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee and come from among managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players, from the time of baseball's origins through 1946.
To gain induction, candidates must be on at least 75 percent of ballots cast. The 16-member voting committee, appointed by the Hall of Fame board, is comprised of Hall of Famers, Major League executives and veteran media members/historians. The Hall of Fame members are Bert Blyleven, Bobby Cox, Pat Gillick and Phil Niekro. Thorn is not on the committee.
This is Adams' first time on the ballot.
A New Hampshire native, after graduating from Yale (1835) and Harvard Medical School (1838), Adams moved to New York City and joined the famous Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, which played the first known organized game between competing clubs on June 19, 1846, at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J.
He became the Knickerbockers' president and organized the first convention of ballclubs that met in May 1857 to formalize rules, ultimately leading to the formation of the National Association of Base Ball Players. He was elected convention president and chaired its rules committee.
Marjorie Adams likes to repeat a quote attributed to famed sportswriter Red Smith, which perhaps indicates Doc Adams' greatest contribution to the game.
"Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection," Smith said.
But just the same, it's hard to imagine baseball history without the generations of great shortstops that have played the position, from Honus Wagner to Ernie Banks, followed by the likes of Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith and Derek Jeter.
"My examination of every scored game of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club from Oct. 6, 1845, to the end of the 1854 season, confirms that the position did not exist before late 1849," Thorn said.
Adams developed the position to assist with relay throws from the outfield.
Pre-Integration candidates are considered every three years. Umpire Hank O'Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and player Deacon White were inducted in 2013.
That year, Bill Dahlen came the closest of anyone previously nominated with 10 votes (62.5 percent). Primarily a shortstop, he spent 21 seasons in the Majors from 1891-1911. At the time of his retirement, he was the active home runs leader (84) and the all-time leader in games played (2,444).
If Doc Adams doesn't make it in his first bid, Marjorie Adams vows to keep fighting on behalf of her relative.
"I'll be back," she said, mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" catch phrase.
Although impressed by his contributions to baseball, Marjorie Adams is even more enamored with Doc Adams the man. Most of his roughly 20-year medical career was spent helping New York's poor and indigent. At one point, he was appointed a vaccine physician with a $400 annual salary, she said.
Five years after his marriage in 1861, which he described as "the crowning achievement of my life," Doc Adams moved to Ridgefield, Conn., where he became Ridgefield Savings Bank president and enjoyed music, sometimes playing flute duets with Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Marjorie Adams knows all the family history. Some day, she wants Doc to tell her everything he knows about baseball.
"I have a lot to ask him," she said.