Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Was former president Woodrow Wilson the inventor of fantasy baseball?

File:President Woodrow Wilson portrait December 2 1912.jpg

Woodrow Wilson served as president of the United States for two terms from 1913 to 1921. He did many good things while residing in the White House. However, his greatest contribution to the sports world likely came long before he was ever elected commander-in-chief.

According to a recent discovery by MLB's official historian John Thorn, Wilson may very well be the first documented person to ever engage in some semblance of fantasy baseball. You see, Wilson grew up in Georgia and South Carolina as an avid player and student of the game. In 1870, at the age of 13, he started his own team and played second base. A year later, Wilson quite possibly conceived the first fantasy baseball documents.

From MLB Cut4:

But the most amazing, and prescient, element of his baseball fandom came in 1871, when he conceptualized an entire fantasy version of then-MLB-level National Association. He wrote out detailed boxscores and faux newspaper accounts of games that never actually happened, all while using real players of the day. In one particularly notable game, Wilson envisioned Cap Anson (who was a rookie in 1871 but would go on to have a Hall of Fame career) homering, while starter Cherokee Fisher threw a no-hitter -- a feat which, at the time, had not yet actually happened in professional baseball.

Wilson didn't devise a point system for players' stats nor distribute them to imaginary teams. In that sense, his creation was most similar to text-based baseball sim games like Out of the Park Baseball, which are complicated enough with a 21st-century computer, and makes it all the more impressive that he did it with only a pen, paper and his mind. It wasn't exactly "fantasy baseball" as we know it, but it certainly was an incredible baseball fantasy for the future president.

Hats off the 28th president of the United States for leaving a legacy beyond politics.

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