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Rise of Al Spalding

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  • Rise of Al Spalding

    From Fred Lieb’s The Baltimore Orioles

    In 1867, Arthur Gorman, president of the National Association, found himself faced with what promised to be the game’s first scandal. He accompanied the crack team from neighboring Washington, the Nationals, on the first Western trip made by an Eastern club. In fact, Baltimorean Gorman gave the expedition his personal aid and encouragement.

    The Nationals were made up largely of government clerks, but they had as their star, captain-shortstop George Wright, one of the game’s early immortals. After the Nationals scored 532 runs in six lopsided victories, an average of nearly 90 runs a game, they were rudely stopped in Chicago by a 17-year-old pitcher, Al Spalding, toiling for the Forest City club of Rockford, Illinois. In a stunning upset, Forest City defeated the Nationals, 29 to 23. The ugly head of betting already had raised its head in baseball, and nasty rumors circulated around Chicago that the Nationals had held back in order to influence betting on the next day’s game, when the Washington team was to play the Chicago Excelsiors, a supposedly stronger team than Rockford. The Chicago Tribune printed the rumors, even going so far as to say, “The Nationals threw the game to Rockford for betting purposes.” The Tribune hadn’t realized what a pitcher Rockford had in Al Spalding.

    Arthur Gorman’s eyes blazed with anger, as he and Col. Frank Jones, president of the Nationals, invaded the editorial sanctum of the Tribune, demanding an apology and retraction. “That was a terrible thing to write about our fine young men,” stormed Gorman. “Even their jobs in Washington are in jeopardy.” Arthur Poe got some kind of apology, and the Washingtons then defeated the Excelsiors, 49 to 4.

  • #2
    Albert Goodwill Spalding (Byron, Illinois September 2, 1850 – September 9, 1915 in Point Loma, California) was a professional baseball player and famous sporting goods manufacturer founder.

    Having played baseball throughout his youth, Spalding first played competitively with the Rockford Pioneers, a youth team, whom he joined in 1865. After pitching his team to a 26-2 victory over a local men's amateur team (the Mercantiles), he was approached by another, the Forest Citys, for whom he played for two years. In the autumn of 1867 he accepted a $40 per week contract, nominally as a clerk, but really to play professionally for the Chicago Excelsiors, a not uncommon arrangement contrary to the rules of the time. Following the formation of the National Association, baseball's first professional league, in 1871, Spalding joined the Boston Red Stockings (a different club to the modern Red Sox) and was highly successful; winning 205 games (and losing only 53) as a pitcher and batting .323 as a hitter. After the NA folded, he joined the Chicago White Stockings of the newly formed National League in 1876, winning 47 games as the club captured the league's inaugural pennant. Spalding retired from baseball two years later.


    This person is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.Retired from the game, he and his brother opened a sporting goods store in Chicago, obtaining the rights to produce the official National League ball. The business, which grew rapidly over the next 25 years, with 14 stores by 1901, expanded from retail into manufacturing baseball equipment and is still a going concern. In 1900 Spalding was appointed by President McKinley as the USA's Commissioner at that year's Summer Olympic Games. Seven years later, his prompting would lead to the founding of the commission that (erroneously) declared baseball to be the invention of Abner Doubleday.

    Receiving the archives of the late Henry Chadwick in 1908, Spalding combined these records with his own memories (and biases) to write Americas National Game (published 1911) which, despite its flaws, was probably the first scholarly account of the history of baseball.

    He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Old Timer's Committee in 1939.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bkmckenna
      Albert Goodwill Spalding (Byron, Illinois September 2, 1850 – September 9, 1915 in Point Loma, California)
      Following the formation of the National Association, baseball's first professional league, in 1871, Spalding joined the Boston Red Stockings (a different club to the modern Red Sox) and was highly successful;
      You write a lot of interesting things. I assume you have a copy or Peter Levine's book about Spalding. His Point Loma residence pictured between pages 70 and 71 still stands and serves as the administration headquarters for Point Loma Nazerene University. My wife worked there till her retirement in 2002. He was very instrumental in the development of San Diego. That part of his life is interesting as well.

      You mentioned that the Boston Red Stockings are not the same club as the Red Sox, and that is true. They are of course the same franchise as the current Atlanta Braves, the longest continuing club going, having been formed by Ivers Adams in 1871.
      Last edited by SABR Steve; 02-21-2006, 11:24 AM.

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      • #4
        i never overtly thought about the braves stemming from the national association - but i guess i realized it - the cubs did as well but not as far back - i would love to hear any facts you have on the formation of these two clubs - is there any chance the braves predated the national association?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bkmckenna
          i never overtly thought about the braves stemming from the national association - but i guess i realized it - the cubs did as well but not as far back - i would love to hear any facts you have on the formation of these two clubs - is there any chance the braves predated the national association?
          The Braves or Red Stockings were formed on January 20, 1871 presumably to join in on the National Association that was formed on March 17, 1871. Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta has played every season of league professional ball.

          Chicago really predated the NA, having been formed in 1870. The Cubs are technically the oldest team (not the Cincinnati Reds). Chicago went dormant for two years following the great fire. They rejoined the NA in 1874 and have played every season since.

          Both teams are the only surviving charter members of either the NA or NL.

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          • #6
            just to be specific - the same franchise from boston switched to the nl in 1876

            i know the chi team collapsed after the fire but was it actually the same franchise that was ressurrected or just another one from the city

            people always believe that cin is the oldest team - i guess it was the opening day thing they had going on for awhile and the 1869 tie in

            i don't think people realize how many current franchises emanated from other leagues like the western league, american association and national association

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bkmckenna
              just to be specific - the same franchise from boston switched to the nl in 1876

              i know the chi team collapsed after the fire but was it actually the same franchise that was ressurrected or just another one from the city

              people always believe that cin is the oldest team - i guess it was the opening day thing they had going on for awhile and the 1869 tie in

              i don't think people realize how many current franchises emanated from other leagues like the western league, american association and national association
              Yes, Nicholas T. Apollonio, as President of Boston, withdrew from the NA along with some other clubs and organized the NL. It took me a little while to find that information some years ago.

              According to Total Baseball, Chicago remained in existence if only on paper. Harold Kaese who wrote the Brave history referred to Boston as the oldest team, but I accept the fact that Chicago is the oldest.

              Red fans still think their team is the oldest, but the current franchise has no connection with the old team that dominated baseball into 1870. It was part of an athletic club that was formed in the 1860's, I think.

              Clubs could join or withdraw from the old leagues and often did. You made me think up a good question. Are there any Major League clubs today that were once in the minor leagues? I've always centered on the Braves, so I don't know. Wait--the AL was once a minor league till 1901.

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              • #8
                i guess these current al franchises were minor league teams:
                det, bal (mil-stl), cle, chi - not exactly sure how ny (bal), bos, was and phi were formed but the minor american lg had 8 teams in 1900 - not sure of the management/player shuffle

                i wouldn't necessarily rule out some nl teams starting out as minor league teams but would have to research - i think at least 4 are from the major american association - where they came from though not to sure

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by bkmckenna
                  i guess these current al franchises were minor league teams:
                  det, bal (mil-stl), cle, chi - not exactly sure how ny (bal), bos, was and phi were formed but the minor american lg had 8 teams in 1900 - not sure of the management/player shuffle

                  i wouldn't necessarily rule out some nl teams starting out as minor league teams but would have to research - i think at least 4 are from the major american association - where they came from though not to sure
                  If and when you research it, don't forget to check if existing clubs came out of the minors to join the AA and then later the NL.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SABR Steve View Post

                    If and when you research it, don't forget to check if existing clubs came out of the minors to join the AA and then later the NL.
                    The Los Angeles Franchise was the Brooklyn Dodgers of the NL, Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers of the AA (1884), Brooklyn Grays of the Interstate Association (1883). I have seen stories where the old Brooklyn Atlantics evolved into the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers and according to the History of Ft. Wayne, the Fort Wayne Kekiongas who played minor league baseball years after their only Major League season were sold and moved to Brooklyn to become the Trolley Dodgers but I have not found a direct connection between either the Brooklyn Atlantics or the Fort Wayne club to the Dodgers. The Atlantics roster had 3 players that later played for the Trolley Dodgers but players moved from team to team so that is not good enough for me.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brian McKenna View Post
                      i guess these current al franchises were minor league teams:
                      det, bal (mil-stl), cle, chi - not exactly sure how ny (bal), bos, was and phi were formed but the minor american lg had 8 teams in 1900 - not sure of the management/player shuffle

                      i wouldn't necessarily rule out some nl teams starting out as minor league teams but would have to research - i think at least 4 are from the major american association - where they came from though not to sure
                      The 1900 American League dropped teams for Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Buffalo and Kansas City and replaced those teams with Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington for 1901. The Buffalo owner was furious with Ban Johnson as originally the four teams (Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Buffalo and Kansas City) were promised to remain in the league as the American League declared itself a Major League. The Buffalo team had spent a lot of money and made a few key trades to strengthen for a major league season. According to newspaper accounts of the day, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington were all suppose to be expansion teams. For a short period of time, between the fall of 1900 and the spring of 1901, the American League consisted of 12 teams. When the expansion was decided against, Ban Johnson dropped the aforementioned teams and kept the 4 teams that were to be expanded. There was no transfer of teams from one city to another.

                      The Kansas City Blues and Minneapolis Millers joined the Western League for 1901 while the Buffalo Bisons joined the Eastern League and the Indianapolis Hoosiers joined the Western Association.

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                      • #12
                        The Baltimore Orioles of the American League moved to New York to become the Highlanders in 1903 and the Milwaukee Brewers moved to become the St. Louis Browns in 1902. The original plan for the American League was to compete in cities near NL teams. The NL abandoned Washington and Baltimore so those to were obvious cities that needed a void filled. Clubs were placed in Boston (Americans) and Philadelphia (Athletics) to directly compete against the Beaneaters and Phillies.

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