Harry Wright was to baseball what George Washington was to the United
States. Wright was "first in baseball" as the founder of professional
play. He put together the first all-pro team in Cincinnati in 1869.
Wright was a native of Sheffield, England. He emigrated to America as a
youngster, coming with his father who was a highly regarded cricket
Harry spent his youth in the New York City area and, like his father,
became a professional cricket player. He first saw baseball played in
1857 in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the game immediately fascinated him.
The next year Wright joined the New York Knickerbockers, an amateur
baseball team, and he played in the East until 1865 when he moved to
Cincinnati to set up a cricket club.
Baseball had caught on in Cincinnati during the early 1860s. Among those
who played daily as a teen-ager was a boy named William Howard Taft. The
should be familiar. He would later become President of the United States
and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Wright arrived in Cincinnati, he found a number of thriving
baseball clubs. The two best teams were the Buckeyes and the Red
Stockings. In 1868 Wright was offered the managership of the Red
Stockings. He brought in four paid players from the East and the
following year he established the first all-professional baseball team.
The highest paid of the 10 team members was Wright's younger brother
George who gave up a career as an engraver to earn $1,400 a year as a
Harry Wright's first team was literally unbeatable, but it did tie once
in that season for a 65-0-1 record. The team played from coast to coast.
Printed statistics of that era show the Red Stockings traveled 12,000 miles by rail and boat. More than 200,000 fans watched
the 66 games. The Red Stockings outscored their opponents by a whopping 2,395 to 575. George Wright batted .518 and hit
59 home runs in the 52 games he played.
Everybody appeared to be excited about the new professional' team except
the hometown newspaper,
After a game on April 17, which opened the home season,
"The baseball season for 1869 opened yesterday by a game between the
first nine of the Cincinnati Club and the field. The playing on both
sides was very poor. There was quite a large number of spectators
present, but the enthusiasm of last summer was lacking."
The story didn't bother to mention a score of the game.
the season progressed, the Red Stockings scheduled an important game in
New York against the Mutuals, the best club in the East. The Reds won
the game, 4-2, a remarkable score since most teams of that era reached
Cincinnati baseball fans were excited and anxiously awaited the outcome
of this game. It
was reported that about 2,000 fans milled around the old Gibson Hotel in
downtown Cincinnati, awaiting the result. When the Western Union office
reported the winning score, the crowd reaction is said to have sounded
like the Fourth of July.