With baseball paying out bigger and bigger salaries and the sport continuing to expand its global reach, it is mind-boggling and consciousness-raising to flash back to its simpler times and simple origins as a professional sport, a time of the Cincinnati Red Stockings - baseball's first professional team.
Attorney Aaron B. Chapman organized the team and looked upon it as a way to promote the city of Cincinnati, its products and services. And Chapman looked upon Harry Wright as scout, recruiter, player and manger - as a man to get a job done.
An English-born former jeweler and cricket player and a veteran of a decade of top-drawer baseball competition, Harry Wright was a strict disciplinarian and a shrewd promoter. He decreed that his team was to wear bright red stockings to set off their white flannel shirts and pants and dark Oxford shoes. The garb was a bit outlandish for the time, but the outfit attracted attention and that was what Wright and Chapman were after.
The Red Stockings were referred to as a "picked nine". That might have been an exaggeration, but it was a nine picked by Harry Wright.
The only native of Cincinnati on the team was first baseman Charlie Gould, nicknamed the "bushel basket" because of his ability to snare baseballs. Other members of the team included Wright’s brother George (a star shortstop), who batted .518, drive in 339 runs and hit 54 home runs in 1869; third baseman Fred Waterman; second baseman Cal Sweasy; outfielders Asa Brainard, Dave Birdsall and Andy Leonard; catcher Doug Allison and pitcher Cal McVey. Harry Wright doubled as a relief pitcher and Dick Hurley functioned as a utility player.
The Red Stockings were the first team to travel across the United States with its players signed and bound to the club for an entire season. Salaries for the team covered the period from March to November and ranged from $800 to a high of $1,400 for George Wright. The lone sub picked up $600. The total payroll for that historic 1869 season was $9,300.
Playing baseball throughout the Northeast and West, traveling 11,000 miles thanks to the new transcontinental railroad, the Red Stockings won all 69 of their games. They were rewarded with a private audience in Washington as President Ulysses S. Grant complimented what he called "the western Cinderella club" for its skills and winning ways.
Although the Red Stockings helped boost business wherever they played and their fame increased each day, the team's net profit for 1869 was a miniscule $1.39 after all salaries and expenses were laid out.
In 1870, the Red Stockings extended their winning streak to 130 games until the Brooklyn Atlantics broke it.
The team's impact was not for one season, or for two campaigns, but rather for all time. Baseball as a professional sport was now underway. The success of the Red Stockings made it sunset time for the amateur in baseball and dawn for professionalism.
One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.
A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of www.HarveyFrommerSports.com where books he has written can be purchased.
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About the Author:
Written by acclaimed sports author and oral historian Dr. Harvey Frommer, with an introduction by pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, When It Was Just a Game tells the fascinating story of the ground-breaking AFL–NFL World Championship Football game played on January 15, 1967: Packers vs. Chiefs. Filled with new insights, containing commentary from the unpublished memoir of Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram, featuring oral history from many who were at the game—media, players, coaches, fans—the book is mainly in the words of those who lived it and saw it go on to become the Super Bowl, the greatest sports attraction the world has ever known. Archival photographs and drawings help bring the event to life.
Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College, is in his 40th year of writing books. The author of hundreds of articles and 43 sports books including the classics: best-selling New York City Baseball, 1947-1957 and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball ,the prolific Frommer also authored the acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium (second edition 2016) and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park..He is at work on “the Ultimate Yankee book” to be published in 2017.
Together with his wife Myrna Katz Frommer, he has written the acclaimed oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami.
Along with his wife Myrna Katz Frommer, he is a professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College where he teaches oral and cultural history. Dr. Frommer has also taught "Sports Journalism" and "Sports and Culture" at Dartmouth College, Adelphi and New York University.
Frommer’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, The Sporting News, Men's Health and other publications.
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