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The English Founder Of The Pros: HARRY WRIGHT

 

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 player.

 

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 name

 

 

 

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 baseball player.

 

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, The Cincinnati Enquirer. After a game on April 17, which opened the home season, The Enquirer opined:

"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.

As 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 double figures.

 

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.

 

         
       

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