August 26: Abraham Gilbert Mills (1929)

Baseball pioneer Abraham G. Mills was the fourth president of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, and is best known for heading the “Mills Commission” which controversially credited Civil War General Abner Doubleday with the invention of baseball. Born in New York City, Mills lived there until the outbreak of the Civil War when he enlisted with the Fifth New York Volunteers. The war did not curtail his baseball playing opportunities. Mills packed his bat and ball with his field equipment. On Christmas Day 1862 at Hilton Head, South Carolina, Mills participated in a baseball game witnessed by 40,000 soldiers. After the war, Mills enrolled in Columbian Law School (now George Washington University) to study law. While in Washington, Mills became president and occasional player for the local baseball club.

On June 5, 1872, Mills married Mary Chase Steele at the Church of the Epiphany. After being admitted to the bar, Mills moved to Chicago. Here, his career took an unexpected turn. Mills wrote a newspaper article outlining a plan to prevent the raiding of non-league teams by league teams. In 1882, the National League unanimously elected Mills as their president. A debate came up at the time as to the origins of baseball – whether it was based on the British game rounders or an American invention. A commission was established with Mills as chairman. With much pressure and little research, the commission concluded that the game was truly American and invented by Abner Doubleday, a Civil War hero and friend of Abraham Mills. This conclusion has since been proved to be inaccurate. Coincidentally, Mills and Doubleday were both married at Epiphany, exactly twenty years apart.

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