SENATORS SQUABBLE OVER BASEBALL ORIGIN

The first game of baseball for which records were kept took place 150 years ago today on the Elysian Fields of Hoboken, N.J. Does that make it America's first official game of baseball?

Yes, if you're Sen. Frank Lautenburg (D) of New Jersey. He introduced a bill to declare today National Baseball Day.

No, if you're Sen. Frank D'Amato (R) of New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame is conspicuously in Cooperstown, N.Y. He wants to name Sept. 23 National Baseball Heritage Day. On that date in 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club began playing regular intramural games in Manhattan.

Senator Lautenburg's bill aims to honor the match between the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and the New York Base Ball Club, in which New York won, 23-1, and their player J.W. Davis was fined 6 cents for swearing.

But what of Abner Doubleday who, legend has it, drew up baseball's rules during a raucous game of "town ball" in Cooperstown in 1839? Mr. Doubleday was a fine soldier, scholars say. But it was a sporting-goods manufacturer who spread the tale of Doubleday's inventing baseball, based on the imperfect memory of one man. Doubleday himself never took any credit for the game.

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