professional baseball's infancy, probably the best player in the game
was George Wright, a 5-foot-9-inch, ISO-pound infielder. All accounts
produce the profile of a player far ahead of his time, a player with
skills considerably more advanced than his contemporaries.
He was a
natural to come to Cincinnati to be the shortstop on the 1869 Cincinnati
Red Stockings, baseball's first all-professional team. The manager was
George's brother, Harry Wright.
had gained quite a reputation in the East as a young cricket
player, proclaimed as one of the best in the world at the age of 16
in 1863. Three years later he was recognized as one of the best baseball
players. He began a career with the Olympics in New York and his
reputation spread far and wide.
brother Harry founded the Red Stockings, one of the first players
contacted was George Wright. He moved to Cincinnati from Morrissiana,
New York, and became the top-paid professional player - earning a
first-year salary of $1,400.
was an incredible hitter. When the Red Stockings played from coast to
coast in 1869, traveling more than 12,000 miles, Wright was the team's
primary gate attraction and the game's first great hitter. In 52 games,
George Wright batted .518, scored 339 runs and
hit 59 home
runs. Granted, the game wasn't played as it is today, but the team as a
whole produced only 169 home runs and Wright hit 59 of them.
stayed in Cincinnati through 1870 and moved on to Boston in 1871 when
the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs was formed. That
association was the forerunner of the National League, founded five
eventually played seven seasons in the National League with Boston and
Providence, Rhode Island. His last year was 1882. Then he embarked on
another career that made him almost as famous as did his baseball
George Wright opened a sporting goods store
with a partner, founding the Wright and Ditson Sporting Goods Company.
opening his store, Wright placed an order for some cricket bats through
a firm in Scotland. While leafing through the Scottish catalogue, an
advertisement for golf clubs caught his eye.
Golf was still
unknown to American sport and it intrigued Wright. Eventually, he was
sent a rule book. Soon after that, Wright and a group of his sporting
friends laid our a nine-hole golf course near Boston.
year the prestigious
Brookline Country Club began promoting the new game and the sport
officially was introduced to America's sportsdom.
to see baseball and golf change dramatically. He was still around in
1936 when the Baseball Hall of Fame was founded. The following year, at
the age of 90, Wright died, but not before being recognized by the Hall
of Fame as one of the game's greats. He was one of the first members
inducted into this exclusive Valhalla of baseball's heroes.