Born in Exeter, England, and raised on cricket, Chadwick was one of the prime movers in the rise of baseball to its unprecedented popularity at the turn of the 20th century. A keen amateur statistician and professional writer, he helped sculpt the public perception of the game, as well as providing the basis for the records of team's and player's achievements in the form of baseball statistics.
Chadwick edited The Beadle Baseball Player, the first baseball guide on public sale, as well as the Spalding and Reach annual guides for a number of years and in this capacity promoted the game and influenced the then-infant discipline of sports journalism. He also served on baseball rules committees and influenced the game itself.
Read Spalding's Baseball Guide and Official League Book for 1895, edited by Henry Chadwick, one of two of his works available free from Project Gutenberg.
In 1867 he accompanied the National Base Ball Club of Washington D.C. on their inaugural national tour, as their official scorer, and in 1874 was instrumental in organising a similar tour of England, which included games of both baseball and cricket. In his role as journalist, he campaigned against the detrimental effects on the game of both alcohol and gambling.
He was instrumental in the first demonstration that rotation imparted while throwing could cause a ball to curve, which took place at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn in August of 1870. At Chadwick's instigation two stakes were placed 20 feet apart in a line between the pitcher and batter's boxes. A young pitcher named Fred Goldsmith threw a ball to the right of the first stake and to the left of the second.
Goldsmith would go to pitch for the New Haven New Havens (1875) London Tecumsehs (1876) and the Tecumsehs after they joined the fledgling International Association (1877-78), the National League's Troy Trojans (1879), the Chicago White Stockings (1880-1884), also of the National League and the Baltimore Orioles (1884) of the American Association.
Despite a friendship with Albert Spalding, Chadwick was scornful of the attempts to have Abner Doubleday declared the inventor of the baseball. "He mains well", said Chadwick, "but he don't know".
He is credited with devising the baseball box score (which he adapted from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events, and for devising such statistical measures as batting average and earned run average.
The following description of a game was written by Henry Chadwick and appeared in his Base Ball Memoranda. It is typical of his style of sports journalism, and that of his time:
For his contributions to the game of Baseball, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1938.
Chadwick was the younger half brother of Sir Edwin Chadwick, England's sanitary philosopher who developed environmental measures and laws designed to counteract the effects of the Industrial Revolution.
Henry Chadwick died at age 83 in Brooklyn, New York and is interred in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. "Father of Base Ball" is inscribed on his grave marker.