Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Family Quest for the Hall of Fame

An Interview with Marjorie Adams

8-6 and 8-7-14

Marjorie Adams, member of the Joe Wood Chapter, was delighted on July 31 when she learned that her Great Grandfather, Doc Adams, had been named the Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legend by SABR’s 19th Century Research Committee. Marjorie’s goal is to see Doc Adams recognized in Cooperstown with a plaque in consideration of his significant contributions to the game. She is motivated by love for her Father, her Grandfather, and for Doc Adams.

Marjorie kindly answered some Q’s for the SJW blog.

YOU ARE A RESIDENT OF NEW LONDON COUNTY. TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, WHERE YOU GREW UP, WENT TO SCHOOL, FAMILY.

I was born and raised on Manhattan Island. That’s where I grew up. Doc lived in New York, too, of course. My Mom’s family has been on Manhattan Island since the Dutch. I have one sister, Nancy. I have no children. Nancy has 4 children and 8 Grandchildren. I am not an athlete. I’m a book person, a history geek. Nancy played baseball and softball and tennis.

5 years after I was born we built a summer home in Wilton. They put in a gravel driveway. I remember my mother telling Nancy to stop using the gravel to practice her throwing.

I did not attend a major league game as a child. I have not attended one even to this day. But I would love to see Jeter play.

I’ve never been to a big league game but I have for the last 2 years gotten out regularly to the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which has teams in Mystic, Danbury, Newport and other towns. The quality of the games is good. I’ve had a blast and met many nice people there. I believe I’ve seen a few players who might have professional talent.

Let me just explain my motive for pursuing HOF recognition for Doc. It’s for my Father, my Grandfather and my Great Grandfather. This is also a history project. Baseball is the National Pastime. It’s important that the historical record is accurate. It’s also for my nieces and nephews.

HOW & WHEN DID YOU BECOME AWARE OF YOUR GREAT GRANDFATHER’S ROLE IN BB HISTORY?

There were several Daniel Adams in the family so Mom was careful to find a way to differentiate each Daniel. She referred to Doc Adams as ‘the baseball guy”. I remember as a kid that Mom also referred to Doc as the one who played flute duets with Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. That meant a lot to me. My Parents felt it was important for their kids to know about our family members. We grew up hearing stories.

DOC PLAYED IN THE FIRST GAME BETWEEN 2 BASE BALL TEAMS AT ELYSIAN FIELDS, 6-19-1846. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HAVING SUCH AN ILLUSTRIOUS FIGURE IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?

Any glory is Doc’s. It is not mine.

We stood at home plate 2 weeks ago, Nancy and I. It was great fun, terribly exciting. It was thrilling.

THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY DOC BELONGS IN THE HOF DISCUSSION. IN YOUR VIEW, WHAT IS THE MAIN REASON OR REASONS HE SHOULD BE INDUCTED?

Doc made some important contributions to the game. That is a fact. He was also a strong leader. Some baseball historians have written that Doc really moved forward the game by pushing the Knickerbocker members to show up at Elysian Fields and play the game. No-shows were a real issue. And they listened, they followed him. In addition to everything else he did, he was a true leader.

WHY DID DOC REMAIN A BACHELOR THROUGHOUT HIS PLAYING DAYS?

I have no idea. There is a letter, circa 1860, to Doc from his father in which his father expresses his opinion about Doc taking a wife. There was a certain Yankee reticence about it. His father never interfered. I should mention that Cornelia, his wife, was a distant cousin of Walter Avery and George Ireland, Jr., both Knickerbockers.

DOC MARRIED YOUR GREAT GRANDMOTHER WHEN HE WAS 47. HE CALLED HIS MARRIAGE THE CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE. WHAT IS IN THE FAMILY LORE ABOUT DOC & CORNELIA?

He never talked about baseball after he left it. His wife, family, and the education of his children were his world. Yes, he did attend the 1875 reunion of the Knickerbockers and he still made baseballs for his sons and played baseball with them into his 80’s.

One thing that may have been a factor in this is that Doc and Cornelia may have lost a child before leaving New York. The loss of a child is mentioned in a letter between Doc and his Father.

Speaking of letters, there is one written by Doc’s sister on June 15, 1832, when he was away at Amherst, in which she addresses his concerns about using his things. “I have not played with your bat and ball as you bid me. I forget it every morning and indeed I have not seen it since you went away.”

HIS HOME IN RIDGEFIELD IS NOW THE SITE OF BALLARD PARK. HIS LAST HOME WAS AT 146 EDWARDS ST. IN NEW HAVEN. HAVE YOU VISITED EITHER PLACE? WHAT THOUGHTS COME TO MIND WHEN THERE?

When I was little my parents drove me by the Ridgefield house so I could see it before it was demolished. I don’t really remember anything about it. But I do have a Revolutionary War cannon ball that came from the backyard of that house. So does Nancy.

As for the house in New Haven there were 2 reasons that Doc moved there from Ridgefield. He had put his sons in Yale and that was expensive. The move saved money. And, moving to New Haven enabled Doc to keep an eye on the boys and make sure they were studying.

DOC RETIRED YOUNG, AT AGE 51, PERHAPS DUE TO HEALTH REASONS. ANY IDEA WHAT WAS WRONG?

There is the possibility that he had typhus at one point in the 1850’s. He was busy. He was a vaccine physician for New York City. He was building his own practice. He played the flute. He was deeply involved with Base Ball.

When he was young, he was given 2 choices: Be a Minister or a Doctor. I suspect he became a doctor because his father was a doctor. He retired from medicine in 1864, the same year that his father passed.

IN JOHN THORN’S SABR BIOGRAPHY ABOUT DOC ADAMS, JOHN WRITES THAT IT IS THROUGH ROGER C. ADAMS THAT THE FAMILY LINEAGE PERSISTED. WHICH LEADS TO YOU. WHAT WERE THE RELATIVES BETWEEN YOU AND DOC ADAMS LIKE?

My father was a well-respected Banker at Marine Midland. My Grandfather was in Engineering. They were the finest, kindest gentlemen that God ever made. Father and Grandfather both dabbled in carpentry.

WHAT IS ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU? WHAT ARE YOU INVOLVED IN AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET DONE?

I want Doc to be recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame with a plaque. I am so grateful to SABR for the recognition he received last week. I waited with great anticipation for the message from SABR’s Bob Gregory that confirmed it.

TELL US ABOUT THE TEAM THAT YOU HAVE ASSEMBLED IN YOUR QUEST. WHO ARE THEY?

Pops O’Maxfield, Karen O’Maxfield, Roger and Cathy Ratzenberger from The Friends of Vintage Base Ball, my sister Nancy and we’ve been recently joined by Bob Gregory and Joe Williams, also SABR members. If it weren’t for the help of the Friends of Vintage Base Ball, we would not be as far along in this quest as we are — and I welcome Joe and Bob to our merry band!

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SABR AND ITS RESEARCHERS?

I am very grateful to SABR and its researchers, particularly John Thorn. I know that there is a strong emphasis on numbers in SABR. But they do care about the earliest years of the game. I am so grateful to Adam Darowski, Peter Mancuso and all the members of SABR’s 19th Century Research Committee.

WHAT MIGHT IT FEEL LIKE TO STAND ON THE STAGE IN COOPERSTOWN AND MAKE THE INDUCTION SPEECH ON BEHALF OF DOC ADAMS AND HIS FAMILY?

I am so ready to stand with Nancy on that dais in Cooperstown. Because I am doing this for my family and Doc. And it will be the best moment of my life.

You can read John Thorn’s Bio Project Biography on Doc Adams at http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/14ec7492.

You can learn more about Doc by visiting Marjorie’s site at http://docadamsbaseball.org/