As an English schoolboy, Chadwick played rounders, a forerunner of baseball. In his early twenties (a decade after emigrating with his parents to Brooklyn), he played baseball, but remained indifferent to the new game for several years. Then, in 1856, while witnessing a well-played match between two of New York’s better clubs, he became a fan, and decided to do everything he could to make baseball “a national sport for Americans” as cricket was for the English. He set out to persuade The New York Times (for which he reported cricket matches) and other major metropolitan dailies to cover baseball, offering to report the games himself.
By the time the last New York paper began reporting baseball in 1862, Chadwick had taken on his next task: promoting changes – through his writing and his membership on an early baseball rules committee – that would move the game toward more balanced offense and defense and would make it a more “manly,” “scientific” game, demanding mental as well as physical ability. He expanded the box score and developed a scoring system that enabled reporters to record every play, allowing them to describe games in greater detail. A modified version of his system is standard today.
In 1860 Chadwick prepared baseball’s first guide; he edited one or more annually until his death, including the famous and respected Spaulding Guide from 1881-1908. Through his rules committee work, his books and pamphlets, and his contributions to more than 20 periodicals, he did more than any other writer to shape the game and spread its popularity, and earned himself the appellation “father of baseball.” His decades of vociferous opposition to gambling were largely responsible for keeping the game freer from corruption than other major sports.
Besides baseball, Chadwick wrote about many other sports and games, from yachting to billiards to chess. He was also a pianist, songwriter, drama critic, and, briefly, during the Civil War, a news correspondent in Virginia. He was enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1938, the only writer elected to the Hall itself (as opposed to the Writers Wing).