I’m pleased to report that Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams has been named SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend for 2014. The announcement was made today at SABR44 (the annual conference of the Society of American Baseball Research) in Houston, TX. I became Chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legends committee last fall and this was the first election I oversaw.
If you’re not familiar with Doc Adams’ career, here is a quick rundown of his career:
- 1830s: Began playing base ball.
- 1840: Joined the New York Baseball Club.
- 1845: Joined the Knickerbocker Baseball Club and was elected president six times (while serving in other roles in six other years).
- 1848: Led the committee that revised the Knickerbocker rules and by-laws.
- 1849 or 1850: Was the first to position himself as a short-fielder, which eventually became the shortstop.
- 1857: Elected presiding officer of the first annual base ball convention that standardized rules for all clubs. The length of games was set to nine innings (rather than 21 runs) and teams to nine players.
- 1858: Was chairman of the rules committee for the second annual base ball conference (where the National Association of Base Ball Players was established). The distance between bases was set to 90.
- 1862: Retired from the Knickerbockers.
For a more detailed bio, see the official announcement.
This election was particularly exciting and not just because it was my first. Adams is probably the most “overlooked” of any Overlooked Legend selection we’ve had. Many of his contributions were forgotten until 1980, when a memoir authored by Roger Cook Adams (Doc’s son) was published in the New York Times via Nathan Adams Downey, Adams’s great-great-grandson. Despite Adams’ relative anonymity, few individuals (if any) had such an impact on baseball’s early development. My hope is that this honor further raises the awareness of Adams’ contributions to our game.
The list of previous Overlooked Legends is an impressive one:
- 2009: Pete Browning (93 Hall Rating): the original “Louisville Slugger” hit .341 with a 163 OPS+ in a 13-year career
- 2010: Deacon White (114 Hall Rating): hit .312 across 20 seasons and was the top catcher of the bare-handed era
- 2011: Harry Stovey (98 Hall Rating): a tremendous combination of power and speed, led the league in home runs five times and triples four times
- 2012: Bill Dahlen (145 Hall Rating): a slick-fielding and hard-hitting shortstop for 21 seasons who collected nearly 2,500 hits
- 2013: Ross Barnes (82 Hall Rating): the best player in the National Association who hit .400 four times
The committee still has some work to do. Everyone loves a good Hall of Fame debate and our committee acts as the voice of the 19th century in these debates. Many pages and pixels have been used to debate the Hall of Fame merits of Jack Morris, Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, and so many others. There are relatively few about Bill Dahlen, Ross Barnes, or Harry Stovey. Our job is to help raise awareness of candidates like Adams or Deacon White—our 2010 selection and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (in 2013). Dahlen finished just two votes shy in 2013. My hope is to see Dahlen elected in 2016, but also to see fellow Overlooked Legends like Browning, Stovey, Barnes, and Adams (perhaps along with Jack Glasscock) appear on the Pre-Integration ballot, too.
Enough looking ahead, though. Today I’m happy for Doc Adams and his family, particularly his great-granddaughter Marjorie Adams. She’s very familiar with our committee and has even helped me with Doc’s bio for previous elections. I imagine this has to be a very exciting day for her. I hope to see Doc follow in the footsteps of Deacon White and have even more exciting days ahead.
Thank you very much to my committee members (Joe Williams, Bob Gregory, Ralph Peluso, and Charles Faber), Peter Mancuso, and Jacob Pomrenke for making this such an enjoyable election.