For hundreds of years, people in England enjoyed various stick and ball games that eventually made their way to America and evolved into baseball. But even so, when the first officially recorded baseball game was played on June 19, 1846, right here in Hoboken, New Jersey, there still wasn’t a definitive set of rules to play by. So in 1857, Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams — the man who had earlier invented the shortstop position as a member of the New York Knickerbockers — convened with other members of New York-area ball clubs to write the “Laws of Base Ball”:
This baseball Magna Carta established a uniform set of rules for the game, including many that are still followed today, including nine players on a side, nine innings to a game and ninety feet between bases.
These historic “laws” were uncovered by an heir of one of the Knickerbocker delegates to the 1857 convention and were sold at auction in 1999 for just $12,650. As more information became known about the document and the important part Doc Adams played in baseball history, the value increased exponentially.
In 2016, the document hit the auction block once again but this time sold for an unbelievable $3.3 million. And this summer, thanks to the generosity of the anonymous buyer, baseball fans will finally get a chance to see the “Laws of Base Ball” for themselves.
On June 29, Baseball Americana opens at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The exhibition will feature the extensive baseball holdings of the Library of Congress — including Jackie Robinson’s letter of thanks and appreciation to baseball executive Branch Rickey, historical images, early baseball cards, film footage from the 1890s to the present, broadcasts of iconic baseball moments and rare interviews with Hall of Fame players — in addition to items from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, such Babe Ruth’s shoes, Dottie Key’s Rockford Peaches uniform and Ty Cobb’s 1908 Tigers contract.
Oh yeah, and Doc Adams’ handwritten “Laws of Base Ball” will be there, too.
The yearlong exhibition will be on view in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building and is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. And if you’re already headed to Washington for the 89th All-Star Game on July 17, be sure to stop by for an All-Star Family Day program on Saturday, July 14, featuring a variety of activities for all ages.