Tag Archives: George Wright

“Base-ball Established as a Business calls upon us to revise our Notions of its Usefulness”

16 Feb

Concern over the post-Civil War baseball boom was not isolated to obscure, financially troubled newspapers.  Shortly after The Harrisburg Topic editorialized on the “silly, even foolish” attention to baseball, The New York Times weighed in on the subject.

While not as staunchly against the game as their Pennsylvania counterparts, The Times had serious concerns:

“The game of baseball is, in many respects, worthy of encouragement.  In a community by far too much given to sedentary occupations and dyspepsia, it furnishes and incentive to open-air exercise, and we should be glad to see it even more resorted to than it is, among the class who would profit most by its benefits.”

Yes, said The Times, baseball was a fine outlet for “our merchants and lawyers and over-worked clerks, after their day of harassing mental labor,” but what loomed on the horizon was the cause for grave concern:

“It is one of the defects of our national character, however, that no sooner do we get hold of a good thing of this sort, than we proceed to make it hurtful by excess.  Base-ball as a recreation was well enough, but base-ball established as a business calls upon us to revise our notions of its usefulness.”

The new, professional game, said The Times, even lacked the one benefit the paper supported—a healthy outlet for players:

“On the contrary, it is so dangerous to life and limb, that in insurance language it would be labeled extra hazardous.  Fatal accidents on the ball-filed have been so common of late as hardly to excite remark, and maiming is the rule and not the exception among members of first-class clubs.  One of the best players of the Red Stockings was so injured in a recent match that he is unable to walk without crutches. (George Wright injured his right leg in an August game in Cincinnati against the Troy Haymakers).  In fact a veteran base-ball player, whose teeth have not been knocked out, or whose bones have not been repeatedly broken, is a lucky rarity.”

George Wright

George Wright

And, like many of the other voices against the growing popularity of the game, The Times said the “moral aspect of our national game” was the most troubling issue:

“At its best, it is an excuse for gambling; at its worst, a device for viler ‘jockeying’ and swindling than ever disgraced the turf.”

The professional game was a scourge that needed to be dealt with:

“It seems time, therefore, that we should ask ourselves what is to be gained by giving to the business of ball-tossing the consideration and importance which seem ludicrously disproportionate to the subject, and are well calculated to seduce the unthinking into profitless pursuit.  Perhaps we may set down to the score of journalistic hyperbole the assertion of one Western paper that the dissolution of the Red Stocking Club would be a national calamity.; but nonsense hardly less preposterous is hourly talked and telegraphed over the country on the same topic.  The spectacle of grave merchants calling a public meeting and subscribing thousands of dollars to establish a club which shall be able to beat another club is sufficiently diverting.  But when we come to have printed in our telegraphic column, side by side, with the war dispatches, and scarcely yielding to them in importance, the various interesting announcements, first, that John Smith has been expelled from the Pipkinsville B.B. Club for getting drunk, and then, next day, that he has been restored, apparently for the same reason, and that the fact has been a matter for public rejoicing, amusement in tinctured with disgust.  We are tempted to suspect that we have been worshipping a very senseless idol and that a young man of health and energy may find many ways of earning a livelihood more creditable to himself and more profitable to his country than by playing in baseball matches.”

Despite the concern about the press “worshipping a very senseless idol,” The Times continued to dutifully report baseball stories at the same rate as the paper had before the editorial; including the November announcement that the Red Stockings were disbanding.

“Boys of ’76”

5 Jan

On February, 2, 1925, The National League magnates “paused in (their) schedule deliberations” to honor the league’s past, and kick-off the diamond Jubilee celebration.

Thomas Stevens Rice, of The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“In the very same rooms in which it was organized on Feb. 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs met again yesterday.  These rooms are in what is now called the Broadway Central Hotel, then called the Grand Central Hotel.”

The Associated Press said:

“In the same room in which Morgan G. Bulkeley, of Hartford, Conn., was elected the first president of the National League, the baseball men, paid tribute to the character and courage of those pioneers a half century ago.”

Dozens of dignitaries were on hand, including, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, John Montgomery Ward, and Governor John Tener

But, the stars that day were six of the surviving players who appeared during the league’s inaugural season:

George Washington Bradley, 72, who won 45 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings; John “Jack” Manning, 71, who hit .264 and won 18 games as an outfielder and pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings; Alonzo “Lon” Knight, 71, an outfielder and pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1876 and hit .250 and won 10 games, and three members of the Hartford Dark Blues, Tommy Bond, 68, a 31-game winner; Tom York, 74, who played leftfield and hit .259, and John “Jack” Burdock, 72, an infielder who hit. 259. Also present was the only surviving umpire from the 1876 season–Calvin J. Stambaugh.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Other surviving 1876 players, including George Wright and and Al Reach cited “advancing age” for their inability to attend.

feb21925pix

Seated from left: York, Bradley, and Manning. Standing: Bond.

 Bozeman Bulger of The New York World said, in relating a conversation between too of the attendees, the event was notable for another reason as well:

“(S)everal of us younger men, moving over closer, discovered a contradiction of a tradition long cherished, that old-timers never could admit any improvement in the game or in the quality of the players.

“‘Have you seen this young fellow, Babe Ruth?’ Bradley asked of Manning.

“‘Yes, indeed,’ admitted Mr. Manning, ‘and don’t let anybody tell you that we ever had a man who could hit a ball as hard as that boy.  I doubt if there will ever be another one.'”

Bulger said the “Boys of ’76” also talked about how they “fought crookedness when a salary of $1,800 a year was considered big pay for a star.”  Bradley, who after baseball became a Philadelphia police officer, said:

“‘Oh, we had crooked fellows following us around back in ’76.  They pretended to make heroes out of us and would hang around the hotels.’

“‘One day Mr. (Chicago White Stockings President, William) Hulbert, a very learned man, advised me to keep away from these men.  He explained how they could ruin a boy and lead others into temptation . I was often approached, but thanks to that wise counsel, I kept myself straight, and I thank God for it today.  It’s worth a lot to me to look you younger men in the eye and feel that in turning the game over to you, we gave you something that was honorable.  It’s up to the players to keep it honorable.”

Tom York summed up his feelings about the game in 1876:

“‘Say, do you remember how proud we used to be after winning a game, when we walked home still wearing our uniform and carrying a bat–and the kids following us?  Ball players–all except Babe Ruth–miss that nowadays.”

 

bondmanning

Bond and Manning talk pitching at the Golden Jubilee kickoff event in 1925.

 

 

 

“This kind of Argument is the Veriest kind of Twaddle”

1 Dec

After just one season in the National League—a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish in 1878–the Indianapolis Blues disbanded.  Four members of the Blues joined the Chicago White Stockings—Silver Flint, Joe Quest, Ned Williamson, and Orator Shafer.

The 1879 White Stockings

The 1879 White Stockings

The White Stockings had been a disappointment in 1878, finishing in fourth place with a 30-30 record under Manager Bob Ferguson.  President A.G. Spalding, who had named Ferguson as his successor when he retired from the field, announced that first baseman “Cap” Anson would replace Ferguson for 1879.

The changes gave the Chicago press high hopes for 1879.

But, The Cincinnati Enquirer did not agree.  The paper said while the Chicago club was “greatly strengthened where it was very weak,” they would still finish no better than fourth place unless they were “properly managed.”  Boston Red Stockings Manager “Harry Wright could take this team and run it up to second place at least.”

In January The Enquirer implied that in addition to questionable management, Chicago’s new players were going to be a detriment:

“A prominent baseball official of Boston, in a private letter written recently, sententiously remarks: ‘Look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club next year.’  There’s a text for everybody’s thoughts.”

The Chicago Tribune quickly fired back with an article under the headline:

“Harmony” vs. Energy

 “There has been a great deal said at one time and another concerning ‘harmony’ in nines, and those who had the most to say on the subject contended that it was an essential point to be carefully looked after in the formation of any club which hoped for success on the diamond field.  Now The Tribune does not wish to set itself up in opposition to the judgment of men who have made baseball and the management of those who play it a study and a business venture, but it does say that many of them have harped so long upon this matter of ‘harmony’ that it has become a kind of second nature, whereby their judgment has been sadly warped.  Of late a paragraph, started in Cincinnati, has been going the rounds, in which the general public is solemnly warned to ‘look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club’ during 1879.

“Now the President and Manager of the Chicago Club are probably about as astute and far-seeing as any in the business and in view of this fact and reflection on their judgment or sagacity is in bad taste, and the parties who make ill-advised criticisms on the course of any club in hiring men, are very apt to undergo the unpleasant experience of persons not brought up in New Zealand who indulge in the pastime of throwing boomerangs; their weapons may come back and inflict considerable damage on those who threw them.  Whether or not the White stocking nine of next season will be a ‘harmonious’ one, it is doubtful if anybody knows, and still more doubtful if anybody cares.

“At the risk of being howled at by several papers, the baseball columns which are presided over by young men whose practical ignorance of the game is exceeded only by their ability to construct tables which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of the “Young men” referred to was The Enquirer’s sports Editor Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor.

One of O.P. Caylor's tables "which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of O.P. Caylor’s tables “which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

The Tribune will say that the question of whether or not the Chicago nine of next season ‘harmonizes’ will probably make very little difference with its play.  Some of the men who enjoy the reputation of being first-class kickers and disorganizers are nevertheless very handy individuals to have around when a base hit or good field play in wanted.  Without intending either to arouse the wrath or flatter the vanity of the very amiable and stalwart young man, Anson, it may be said that his reputation as an experienced and prolonged kicker is one that any man might be proud of; but, in spite of those who preach that harmony is everything, he is acknowledged to be one of the best and most useful ball-players in the country.  (Cal) McVey, of the Cincinnatis, can also make quite a conspicuous kick, even when not specially called upon to do so; still he is a good ball-player.

Lip Pike is a disorganizer of the first water, but last season, when he used to hoist a ball out among the freight cars on the lake shore, people who were presumed to know a good player yelled themselves hoarse in his praise.  The list could be extended indefinitely, but such action is not necessary.  Those who organize nines on the basis of ‘harmony’ alone will never grow rich at the baseball business.  It is not possible to get together nine men who could travel around the country eating, sleeping, and playing ball together that would never get out of tune.  Nine angels could not do it, much less nine mortals, subject to the little idiosyncrasies that human nature is afflicted with. “

The Tribune likely assumed the “prominent baseball official of Boston,” was Manager Harry Wright, and next turned its attention to him, his brother, and his championship teams.

“Harry Wright has always been the prophet whom the ‘harmony’ men delighted to honor, and the success of the Cincinnati and Boston Clubs under his management has been laid entirely to the dove-like dispositions of the men engaged by him.  This kind of argument is the veriest kind of twaddle, and the history of the Boston Club proves the truth of this assertion.  George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and George and (Charlie) Gould did the same thing.  For one whole season Ross Barnes and Gould never exchanged a word, and glared at each other like opposing game chickens, but the Boston’s won the pennant that year (1872—National Association) all the same harmony or no harmony.

“Other instances of like character could be adduced were there any necessity therefore, but these, from the fountain head of ‘harmony,’ will suffice.  If a club wins the championship it will be because its men play ball, not because they are ‘goody-goody’ boys.  Your man who gets hot at something during a game, and then relieves his feelings by making a two or three base hit, is much more valuable than one who, although possessed of a Sunday-school temperament at all times, manifests a decided aversion to reaching first base., when the occupancy of that particular bag of sawdust would be of some value to the men who pay him high wages for playing ball.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor would not let the insult to him and to Harry and George Wright, go unchallenged:

The Chicago Tribune published some strange statements against the argument that in harmony there was always strength.  To prove that harmony was not always necessary to create strength in a baseball club, the writer made bold to say among other things that Tommy Beales [sic] when a member of the Boston Club, went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word with George Wright, and that the same feeling existed between George and Gould.  The writer knew from the first these statements were fiction, but in order to crush the fallacious argument our reporter left it to George Wright himself for an answer.  The letter is before us from which we quote, though we half suspect George would demur to its publication out of modesty if he knew it. “

Wright wrote to Caylor:

“(The Tribune) said Tommy Beales [sic] and I went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and that Gould and I did the same thing.  While they were with the Boston nine they were about my best friends.  Most of the time Beales [sic] boarded at my house, while Charley and I roomed together on trips.  I think the reporter was wrong in his argument against ‘Harmony’ as it was the great cause of the Boston Club’s success.  The credit for this mostly belonged to Captain Harry Wright.”

George Wright

George Wright

Although it appears Wright spelled the name of his good friend Tommy Beals incorrectly, he got the spelling right 12 months later when he named his son—tennis Hall of Fame member –Beals Wright after his former teammate.

The Tribune allowed Wright, and Caylor, the last word, and dropped the dialogue regarding “harmony.”

Despite Caylor’s prediction, the White Stockings, under Manager Cap Anson, led the National League from opening Day through August 15.  Anson became ill during July, and as his performance slipped, so did the team’s fortunes.

Suffering from what The Tribune called “an acute affection of the liver…that had sadly impaired his strength and capacity for play,” Anson left the club on August 26 with a 41-21 record, in second place, just a game and a half back.

With Silver Flint serving as manager, and without Anson’s bat—he led the team with a .317 average—the White Stockings were 5-12 in the last 17 games, and a fourth place finish.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings finished second; his team, winners of the previous two National League championships lost some of the “harmony” that made them winners when his brother George Wright and Jim O’Rourke signed with the Providence Grays.  George Wright, in his only season as a manager, led the Grays to the 1879 National League championship.

“It may well be Doubted whether Beals should be Permitted to play Second Base again”

23 Jul

Thomas Lamb “Tommy” Beals had a complicated relationship with Harry and George Wright.

George named his son, the Hall of Fame tennis player, Beals Wright after his friend and former teammate.  But, The Chicago Tribune said when the two played together, “George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without a friendly word,” a charge Wright denied.

After signing a contract to play second base for Harry Wright’s Red Stockings for 1876—the first season of the National League—Beals decided instead to jump the contact and go to Colorado where he worked as a miner.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals

He eventually left Colorado and went to the West Coast where he played a handful of games in 1879 for the San Francisco Mutuals and Oakland Pioneers in the California League.  In the spring of 1880 he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings.

Harry Wright protested the signing of his former player, or as The Tribune said:

“Some parties in Boston have been making a wholly unnecessary fuss over the engagement of Beals by the Chicago Club, claiming that after engaging to play with the Bostons in 1876 he refused to report for duty.”

The Tribune noted that the contract was actually signed before the league was officially founded on February 2, 1876, but:

“The Boston people argue that, although the League was not in existence at the time Beals retired from baseball, it was agreed, upon its formation, that that all contracts existing between clubs and players should be recognized.”

The newspapers in Wright’s former hometown of Cincinnati weighed in.  The Commercial Gazette encouraged the Boston protest and said Wright should make it “a test case (and) prevent the Chicago Club from playing him during the coming season.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer took the opportunity to accuse Wright of protesting activities he was himself regularly guilty of engaging in:

“The disposition shown by the Boston Club management to create an unpleasantness in the matter of the engagement of Tommy Beals by the Chicago Club, upon the ground that Beals was under some sort of engagement with Boston four or five years ago, has had the effect of recalling some reminiscences calculated to show that the pharisaical kickers of the Hub are in no position to give us the ‘holier than thou’ racket.  In the first place Boston has slept upon its rights, if it ever had any, in the Beals case so long that the matter is outlawed long since, and ought never be raked up at this late day, especially in view of the fact that Chicago acted in good faith and without any suspicion of a cloud upon its title to the services of Beals.

“In the next place Boston had better be repenting for some of its own sins before assuming the role of exhorter towards other folks.  That club has now under contract three players whose engagements will not bear the closest kind of scrutiny.  In 1877 the Boston Club, in the middle of the season, committed an act of piracy on the Lowell Club of which it ought to be ashamed, by jerking (John) Morrill and (Lew) Brown out of the Lowell nine in regular highwayman fashion, both these players being then under contract for the entire season in Lowell…we (also) find that (Jack) Burdock was under contract to Chicago in 1875 and never showed up.  He might have been expelled by Chicago, but was not, and continues an honored and valued member of the Boston outfit.  In 1876, again Thomas Bond was suspended from play and pay by the Hartford Club, of which he was then a member, and in spite of this cloud upon his name and fame, was engaged the following year by Boston, and has been there ever since.”

Morrill, Burdock and Bond were all still members of the Red Stockings, comprising three-fourths of the team’s infield.

The Enquirer also criticized Boston because the team acted to “choke off” an attempt by Hartford Manager Bob Ferguson to bring the allegations which led to Bond’s suspension to light during a league meeting—Bond, during a season-long feud with Ferguson had accused his manager, among other things, of “selling” games.  Bond was suspended by Ferguson on August 21 of 1876 despite posting a 31-13 record for the second place Dark Blues—Bond’s replacement as Hartford’s primary pitcher was Candy Cummings.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

The Enquirer took a final shot at Wright noting that when the league instituted the new rule for 1879 which barred non-playing managers from the bench “Boston squealed because Harry Wright couldn’t enjoy privileges  denied to everybody else, and this year they are playing baby about Beals on grounds equally absurd.”

The Tribune laid out Chicago’s long list of grievances for “plenty of ‘queer’ work in which Boston has been engaged.”  In addition to the incidents mentioned by The Enquirer, The Tribune said in 1877 after Albert Spalding had secured infielder Ezra Sutton for Chicago, “Sutton was worked upon by Boston and went there to play.”

So, according to Boston’s critics the club’s entire 1880 infield had come to the team via questionable circumstances.

The Boston Herald responded:

“It is not to be expected that the Chicago Club will recognize the position of the Boston Club in this matter, and release Beals.  That organization has on more than one occasion, shown its utter contempt for League rules, or in fact, for anything that interferes with its own particular self, and, to expect justice in this case, is not to be thought of.  In the meanwhile, the Boston Club will probably not take any official action in the premises, but let the Chicago Club enjoy all the honor (?) there is in playing such a man.”

After the weeks of allegations, posturing and name-calling in the press, the season began on May 1; Boston never lodged a formal complaint about the signing of Beals.

Chicago cruised to the National League title, spending only one day (after the season’s second game) out of first place.  Beals, rusty from his layoff made little impact for the champions, hitting just .152 in 13 games at second base and in the outfield.  By August, with the fight to defend his signing long forgotten, The Tribune said after a rare Beals start in a 7 to 4 loss to the Worcester Ruby Legs:

“Beals played as though he had never seen a ball-field before…It may well be doubted whether Beals should be permitted to play second base again…any amateur who could be picked at random would be likely to do better both in fielding and batting.  Worcester would have made two or three less runs yesterday if second base had been left vacant altogether, as what time Beals didn’t muff grounders he threw wild and advanced men to bases they would not otherwise have reached.”

Beals was 0 for 3 with three errors that afternoon—for the season he committed 4 errors in thirteen total chances at second for a fielding percentage of .692.

Let go by Chicago at the end of the season, Beals’ professional baseball career was over and he returned to the west.  In 1894 he was elected to one two-year term in the Nevada State Legislature as a Republican representing a district that included the town of Virginia City.  By 1900 he was back in Northern, California, where little is known about his activities.  He died in Colma, California in 1915

“My Forte is Base-Ball, and not Speaking”

28 May

The Red Stockings arrived in Wheeling, West Virginia on June 29, 1869; the final stop on their 21-game tour, which began in Mansfield, Ohio on June 1.  They had won the previous 20 games on the trip and The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The only real sensation which our city has enjoyed of late has been that created by our victorious Red Stockings on their Eastern tour.”

The Wheeling Intelligencer said of their arrival:

“These celebrated base ballists reached our city last evening, over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  They were met at Benwood by a committee of reception, on behalf of the Baltics…Quite a crowd gathered at the depot to greet them, and when the train reached here (Wheeling) they entered a special omnibus and were driven at once to the McClure House.  After brushing off the dust of travel and refreshing the inner man, they were taken in charge by the committee and spent the remainder of the evening in sightseeing.  They are courteous in their manners and jubilant at the prospect that the arduous labors of the month’s campaign are so nearly ended.  A more splendid tour has never been made by any club.  They (will) return to the Queen City with a record of unexampled brilliancy.”

The paper said admission to the game at the Wheeling Fair Grounds was 25 cents for adults and fifteen cents for children, and told their readers:

“We would advise all who wish to witness the finest playing ever seen in this region, to be present.”

Advertisement for the Wheeling game.

Advertisement for the Wheeling game.

The game was played the following day (some sources incorrectly list the date of the game as July 1).  The Intelligencer said:

 “At one o’clock yesterday afternoon, the long anticipated game of baseball between the Red Stockings, of Cincinnati, and the Baltics, of our city, was opened.

“The Red Stockings were first at the bat and succeeded in making almost a score of runs (the Red Stockings scored 11).  The Baltics came to the bat and were whitewashed.  The same ill luck happened them during the three innings played (4 ½ innings were played).  At four o’clock the game closed—the Red Stockings being compelled to leave at that hour so as to make an evening train to Cincinnati…They went off in the best possible spirits—feeling conscious that they were the champion base ballists in the country.  In their recent tour they did not sustain a single defeat. “The game yesterday was witnessed by about fifteen hundred persons , among them a large number of ladies, and although the Red Stockings almost annihilated one of our home clubs, the fine playing of the strangers elicited the heartiest and warmest applause.  As the play progressed the excitement amounted almost to enthusiasm.  Good order was preserved throughout the game. “We neglected to mention in the proper place that the score stood at the close: Red Stockings, 52; Baltics, 0. Time occupied, three hours.”

While the Wheeling paper didn’t mention rain, The Cincinnati Enquirer said rain caused the early ending:

“The Cincinnatis went to bat for the fifth inning and scored eight runs, making the total score of fifty-two.  It now commenced to rain and game was called, the Baltics not being given the opportunity to be white-washed gain.”

The official score was 44-0, and the Red Stockings had completed a 21-0 month-long road trip on their way to a perfect 65-0 record. The Enquirer said of their return:

“Our victorious Red Stockings, the first nine of which met and conquered all the first-class base-ball clubs of the country, after a tour of one month, arrived at home at ten o’clock yesterday morning via the Little Miami Railroad.  The day when our boys should arrive home, has during the past week been eagerly looked for, and arrangements to give them a hearty welcome were completed.”

Four thousand people turned for the return:

“The train arrived at the depot promptly on time, when the boys, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the spectators, were escorted to carriages provided for the occasion and taken over the line of march prescribed to the Gibson House.  At the head of the procession was the Zouave band in an open transfer wagon, gaily decorated with flags and banners.”

After the team arrived at the Gibson House, they appeared on a hotel balcony:

“Loud calls were made for Mr. (Aaron Burt) Champion, President of the club, (Harry) Wright, (Charlie) Gould and (Doug) Allison, and, in fact, every member of the nine.”

Doug Allison

Doug Allison

After the team members were “shown to private apartments where they had an opportunity of resting.”  Later, they appeared again:

“(T)he nine dressed in their neat white uniforms, with the well-known red stockings, were seated in carriages and driven to the Union Grounds where fully 3,000 people persons has assembled to again welcome them and witness the game with a picked nine.”

Before the game the team was presented with a 27 ½ foot long ash baseball bat “lettered with the names of the First Nine and the two substitutes.” The Red Stockings beat the local picked nine 53-11. A banquet was held in the team’s honor that evening.  The Cincinnati Commercial said it was a “glorious reception…An extra pig was killed in honor of the ‘boys.’”  The Enquirer said the crowd called on the Harry Wright to make a speech:

“Loud calls were made for Harry Wright, Captain on the Nine.  He arose and rather bashfully asked to be excused from making a speech; it was something that he was not in the habit of doing, but he would do all in his power to aid in keeping the reputation of the nine.”

One-by-one each player on the team refused to give a speech for the crowd.  Wright’s brother George said “Gentlemen, you must excuse me, as nobody else is making speeches.  My forte is base-ball, and not speaking, therefore I’ll stop short.”

George Wright

George Wright

The closest thing to a speech came from one of the team’s two reserves, James Fowler.  Fowler rarely played, and appeared in only one game during the tour—Allison was hit over the left eye by a foul ball during the June 24 game with the Maryland Club of Baltimore, George Wright moved behind the plate and Fowler played the final three innings at short.  Fowler, primarily acted as the team’s scorekeeper, does not appear in the team photo and is usually not listed on the team roster. Fowler told the crowd:

“Mr. Champion says that I slept through all these matches; if I didn’t play I talked, and helped in that way.  I am happy to be a member of the Cincinnati Nine—or rather Eleven.”

The Red Stockings "Eleven" minus James Fowler

The Red Stockings “Eleven” minus James Fowler

While none of the players were willing to give a speech, the crowd, and local dignitaries, made a series of toasts to the team.  The Enquirer said:

“At a late hour our reporter left the scene of conviviality, at which time the company were enjoying themselves in the happiest manner, and doing all in their power to manifest their appreciation of the victorious ‘Red Stockings.’  So ended the grand ovation—the most complete, in every respect, ever extended to any similar organization in the country.”

Despite the late night and “conviviality,” the Red Stockings beat the Olympics of Washington twice that week, 25 to 14 and 32 to ten.

Origin Stories

9 Apr

Timothy Paul “Ted” Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and the lifelong friend and confidant of Charles Comiskey.

Al Spink, in his 1911 book “The National Game,” said Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Comiskey said of his friend:

“Ted Sullivan’s standing in the profession of baseball cannot be measured by modern standards.   He is in a class all by himself.  He is ever and always ahead of his time, with a knowledge of the game and a versatility that no other baseball man of my acquaintance has ever possessed.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan, given his reputation, was a favorite among reporters who sought his opinion about everything related to baseball.

In December of 1904, months before the Mills Commission was organized to determine baseball’s origin, Sullivan was asked by The Cincinnati Enquirer to weigh-in on the subject.  A month earlier Albert Spalding had given a speech at the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts claiming that baseball “is distinctively an American sport.”  The commission was formed in reaction to Henry Chadwick’s 1903 essay which said baseball was derived from British game rounders—after Spalding’s response, the two agreed to appoint the commission to settle the question.

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

The Enquirer said;

 “Of all the old-timers in harness Ted Sullivan is as good as the best, or a trifle better, when it comes to reviewing the history of diamond doings of the hoary past.  His memory goes back to year one of baseball and his story of the origin of the game makes a good bit of fan literature for the off season.

“’The origin of baseball may be the evolution of townball, barnball, two-old-cat or yet it may be the suggestion of the three named,’ says Ted.  ‘At any rate, the game is the product of American genius and temperament, and not an offshoot of English rounders, as our English cousins would have us believe.  Of the many times I have been in England and the subject of baseball came up, one Englishman would say to the other: ‘Why, that blooming American game of baseball is nothing but our old game of rounders, you know.’ I have nothing but the highest regard for an Englishman’s love of sport—for it is inherent in a Briton from the present King down, and should an Englishman have only his last sixpence, and should the alternative arise whether he should eat or see a field sport—he would undoubtedly decide in favor of the latter.  I must totally disagree, however, with my British cousins that their primitive and plebian game of rounders is the mother of our national game.  Oh, no dear cousins; chase that idea out of your heads.

“’To say rounders is baseball would be the same as claiming that a palace was a hut because it had a door, or a wheelbarrow a carriage because it had a wheel…From the time that the game was regularly played by the knickerbockers of New York until it became a profession, change after change has been made in the rules, to make the game as perfect as possible in its machinery.  The game is about fifty-five years of age, that is to say, before it became national, as it was played in New York and New England up to 1861, but did not reach the limits of our country until 1865 and 1866.  The most important changes in the rules after the structure of the game was put up was first eliminating a put out on the first bound by an outfielder.”

Like Spalding, Sullivan didn’t provide any specific evidence, and instead made a case that baseball must be an American invention because of “the originality of the American in the line of invention,” and by his logic, baseball was just one in a great line of American innovations:

“America to-day is the inventive torch of the world, and has been for the last fifty years.  The first seed of America’s inventive genius took root in Robert Fulton’s brain when he advocated steam as a motive power.  The next in line was Prof. Morse’s advocacy of the use of telegraph wire as a transmitter of sound.  This invention was followed by the sewing machine that relieved the weary housemaid of her burden.  On its heels came Cyrus McCormick with his farming implements that taught the world how to reap their harvest in one-tenth the time and with a fraction of the labor of former days.  The last of the greatest of America’s inventive thinkers is Tom Edison, the Wizard of Electricity, who has electrified ad illuminated the world by his inventions.”

Sullivan said this demonstrated “the originality of the American in the line of invention—whether it be a pastime or a beneficiary to the commercial world.”

There was no doubt Sullivan was influenced by Spalding’s speech.  Both claimed the game was “natural evolution” of earlier American games, and Sullivan refers to baseball as “the product of American genius and temperament; Spalding said baseball was “peculiarly adapted to the temperament and character of the American people.”

A.G. Spalding

Albert Spalding

Spalding’s speech was reprinted in many newspapers as well as the 1905 edition of “Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide.”

When the formation of the Mills Commission was announced in the spring of 1905 The Washington Post said:

“Inquiries are to be made throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking communities, with a view of ascertaining whether baseball is an evolution of the old English game of rounders, or of the classic American game of one-old-cat.”

The Post ridiculed the effort:

“Those ‘youngsters,’ Father Chadwick and A.G. Spalding, are playing extra innings to decide the origin of baseball.  The general public doesn’t seem to care when or how the game originated.”

The seven-member commission was composed of members sympathetic to the American origin version of Spalding and Sullivan.  Commission members Abraham Mills, Morgan Bulkeley, Arthur Gorman, Nick Young, Al Reach, George Wright and John Edward Sullivan accepted the story of a mining engineer from Denver named Abner Graves, and thus was born the Doubleday myth.  Spalding and Sullivan started with a conclusion and Spalding put together a commission that made it so.

The full text of the Graves’ first  letter to the commission as reprinted in The Sporting Life in august of 1905:

“The American game of base ball was invented by Abner Doubleday, of Cooperstown, N. Y., either the spring prior or following the ‘Log Cabin and Hard Cider’ campaign of General William H. Harrison for the presidency.  Doubleday was then a boy pupil of Green’s Select School in Cooperstown, and the same, who as General Doubleday, won honor at the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War: The pupils of Otsego Academy and of Green’s Select School were then playing the old game of Town Ball in the following manner:

“A tosser stood close to the home goal and tossed the ball straight upward about six feet for the batsman to strike at on its fall, the latter using a four-inch flat-board bat. All others wanting to play were scattered about the Held, far and near, to catch the ball when hit. The lucky catcher took his innings at the bat. When a batsman struck the ball he ran for a goal fifty feet distant and returned.   If the ball was not caught or if he was not plunked by a thrown ball, while running, he retained his innings, as in Old Cat.

“Doubleday then improved Town Ball, to limit the number of players, as many were hurt in collisions. From twenty to fifty boys took part in the game I have described. He also designed the game to be played by definite teams or sides. Doubleday called the game Base Ball, for there were four bases in it.  Three were places where the runner could rest free from being put out, provided he kept his feet on the 1 flat stone base. The pitcher stood in a six-foot ring. There were eleven players on a side. The ball had a rubber center overwound with yarn to a size somewhat larger than the present day sphere and was covered with leather or buckskin. Anyone getting the ball was entitled to throw it at a runner between the bases and put him out by hitting him with it.

“I well remember some of the best players of sixty years ago. They were Abner Doubleday, Elilin Phinney, Nels C. Brewer. John. C. Graves. Joseph Chaffee. John Starkweather, John Doubleday, Tom Bingham and others who played on the Otsego Academy campus; although a favorite place was o the Phinney farm, on the west shore of Otsego Lake.”

Graves’ recollection would place the first game in 1839 when he was five, and “boy pupil” Doubleday was 20.

 

Harry Wright Returns to Cincinnati

17 Dec

In 1871, Harry Wright took several of his Red Stockings players, as well as the team name, moved to Boston and joined the newly formed National Association.  Wright’s exit from Cincinnati was contentious, but despite that he was invited back for an exhibition game in July between his former team and a “picked nine” consisting of the members of Wright’s current team and the Washington Olympics.

Advertisement for the July 3, 1871 game

Advertisement for the July 3, 1871, game

The Cincinnati Enquirer said the two thousand people in attendance indicated “that the interest in base-ball is not dead in this city, but only needs the stimulus of first-class games to awaken it to renewed life.”

The paper said:

“The old Reds did not have the services of George Wright (who was injured), and did not play with the skill characteristic of them in 1868-’69, which may have been due to fact that there was nothing at stake than gate money.”

Albert Spalding pitched for the “picked nine” and beat Wright’s club, with Asa Brainard pitching, 15-13. The Enquirer said former Cincinnati players Cal McVey and Charlie Gould, who both joined Wright in Boston, “have improved in their batting powers.”

Wright’s team led 10 to 4 through five innings, but the opponents posted a five-run sixth which included a home run by Davy Force and added two in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The box score

The box score

One sign that all might not have yet been forgiven in Cincinnati:  while Harry Wright was listed in the box score and the inning-by-inning recap of the game, The Enquirer didn’t use his full name in any of the game advertisements or articles.

Professional baseball returned to Cincinnati in 1876 when the reds became an inaugural member of the National league.

Lost Advertisements–“Now he is a Man with a Sound Body”

13 Dec

georgewrightcelery

An advertisement featuring George Wright, which appeared in newspapers across the country, and presented as a regular news story, for Paine’s Celery Compound:

“He is a prince among gentlemen athletes.  Once he was known as the king of base-ball players, and to this day many say the game has not produced a shortstop to equal him.  But, while Mr. Wright’s interest in base-ball is still as great as ever, he is now playing cricket, and is one of the best cricketers in the country.”

Paine’s, like many patent medicines of the late nineteenth century, claimed to be a cure for the grippe (influenza):

“Says Mr. Wright: ‘Last spring I did not feel in the best of health.  I do not mean to say that this is strange, because most people during the past season have been out of sorts, but I was troubled with a tired, languid feeling, a thing quite unusual to me.

“I was not what might be called sick, but I was not well.  a friend recommended me to try something of which he spoke in the highest terms.  I am in the habit of relying on my constitution to bring me through, but I determined to follow my friend’s advice.

“I must say that I am glad I did so, for I found it benefited me greatly, and I am taking it now, even while out-of-doors and indulging in my regular exercise.  This is what Paine’s Celery Compound did for me.”

George Wright

George Wright

The ad said Paine’s  “makes the weak strong,” and that “Thousands of people attribute their recovery from the grippe” to the compound.

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, Paine’s contained fifteen different types of vegetables, but that “loses much of its impressiveness when it is seen that the total amount of vegetable extractives is less than 1.5 percent.”  The Journal also noted that the compound contained 19.85 percent alcohol, which may account for Wright’s assertion that it “benefited me greatly.”

 

Davy Force

28 Oct

David W. “Davy” Force was a popular figure in 19th Century baseball.  Francis Richter, founder and editor of The Sporting Life said the five-foot four-inch Force was, along with George Wright ”the two greatest shortstops of the early days of baseball.”  Nick Young, National League president, told Ren Mulford Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer that Force was second only to Wright as the greatest.

Davy Force

Davy Force

Force played in the National Association and National League from 1871 to 1886, and finished his professional career in the Western Association with the Sioux City Corn Huskers.

He remained popular, and well-known enough that multiple newspapers reported in 1890 that the former player “sided with the Brotherhood,” and supported the Players League; he even made news that year for growing a beard:  “Force has raised a crop of whiskers as long as himself. “

So when it was reported on Christmas Eve of 1896 that Force had shot and killed a man—a former ballplayer no less–in a San Francisco bar and then fled, the news was reported in papers across the country.

The Louisville Courier Journal:

Ball Player Kills Another

The Cincinnati Enquirer:

Old Cincinnati Ball Player Kills a Man in Frisco

The Salt Lake City Tribune:

Baseball Player Shoots Another Without Warning

The Chicago Tribune:

Police now on Lookout for Force

The Baltimore Sun:

‘Davy’ Force Wanted for Killing a Man

Towns where Force had been a popular player were quick to distance themselves.  The Sioux City Journal said that while fans “took a sort of paternal and patronizing interest” in Force when he played in Sioux City “the Golden Gate murder is quite another story…If he has been leading a wild, reckless life, possibly discouragements and vicissitudes have made a different man of him.”

The victim, Joseph Manning, was described as “an ex-ballplayer,” and in various articles was conflated with former big leaguers Jim Manning and Tim Manning.

Once it was determined Manning was not Jim or Tim, no one seemed to know anything about him.

Seven days after the murder, Abraham Mills, former National League president, issued a statement:

“I have known Davy Force almost continuously since I engaged him in 1867 to play in the Olympic Base Ball Club of Washington.  For the last seven years he has been in the employ of the company for which I am an officer, (The Otis Elevator Company) and is a steady, hard-working man, and I fully believe his statement that he never knew a Joseph Manning, and that he has never had any serious difficulty with or made any assault of any kind upon any ballplayer, either during or since his professional career.”

Mills’ statement was printed in only a fraction of the newspapers that reported the shooting.

The accusations faded, and by the time Force died in 1918 there was no mention of the case of mistaken identity in the ballplayer’s obituary.

Who exactly Joseph Manning was, and whether he was actually a professional baseball player, remains a mystery; as does the identity of the “Davy Force” who killed him in San Francisco.

Nearly a Century before his Time

22 Oct

Baseball’s Reserve Clause was first instituted in September of 1879; the eight National League clubs agreed at a meeting in Buffalo, New York, that each team would be able to “reserve” five players for the following season.

In August of 1880, as it appeared the league would renew the agreement, Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a scathing article about the practice; one that could have been written 10 years later by John Montgomery Ward during the creation of the Players League, or almost 90 years later by Curt Flood.

opcaylor11

O.P. Caylor

“It has frequently been urged in these columns that the so-called Buffalo agreement made by the league clubs last year…was a gross outrage and unworthy of the organization.  We did not believe until recently that the league would have gall enough to enact the disgrace.  But already there is log-rolling going on to bring it into existence for next season.”

Caylor said the only way to defeat the “five-men fraud” was for the players to stand up against it.

“What right has the league to say to any player where he shall play ball next year?  The days of slavery are over.  This system of Ku-Kluxism in ball-playing ought to be quashed.  A ballplayer has no better right than to place a price on his services in Cincinnati, and another for his services in Chicago.  It may be that he would rather play in Chicago for $100 less than in Cincinnati, or vice versa.  Let him name his price for each place.  Let the city which considers him worth the salary asked pay for it.  If he asks too much; that city need not engage him.  No man with common business sense would engage a clerk at a salary he could not earn”

Caylor did seem to miss the point that several owners did lack “common business sense” and that the Reserve Clause was instituted in large part to protect them from themselves.  He also overestimated the resolve of players to exercise their influence.

“It is time such outrageous policy was ended.  If the league will not do it, the players must.  It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.  Let the players then anticipate the fraud, and meet it half way.  Let every league player sign a solemn agreement with every other league player not to play ball next season for any club that shall attempt to coerce players in this manner.  The players command the field.  Clubs cannot do without them; but they can do without clubs.  If the league intends to repeat the fraud, it should deserve to have its existence ended.  Such men as George Wright, Jim (Deacon) White and John Clapp cannot afford to be driven out of the profession by such repeated outrages.  If the players, or, at least, the better part of them, will but demand their rights as men—freemen—they can have them.  If they go on supremely careless and do nothing until forty of them are under the yoke of despotism, they will richly deserve all that they suffer by it.  This is the time to act.  We warn players that the log is already rolling which is intended to pin them down again under the dictation of a despotic power.”