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Al Reach

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  • Al Reach

    Al Reach
    Al Reach was an acclaimed fielder and base runner of the 1860s and ‘70s. He was a lefthanded second baseman in an era when that was not so unusual. As such, he was one of the earliest men paid to play the game.

    In retirement Reach achieved his greatest fame and financial rewards. In 1875 he opened a cigar store in Philadelphia. It quickly became a hangout for local players and cranks. Eventually, Reach turned it into a company that manufactured and sold sporting equipment.

    One of his original clients was the Philadelphia Pythians, one of the early successful black teams. This relationship opened the door to numerous opportunities for Reach’s company to supply goods throughout black baseball. In turn, the business possibilities here have led some historians to suggest that fellow sporting goods mogul Albert Spalding, to combat Reach’s growth potential, used his influence as a National League official to curtail efforts to form black leagues. Specifically, Spalding may have used his position to threaten black teams by eliminating lucrative contests against white clubs within organized baseball.

    Ben Shibe, the inventor of the cork-centered baseball, later joined Reach in the venture. In 1883 they landed a contract with the American Association to supply its game balls. Together, they attained riches by adapting mass production methods and mail order sales to the emerging sporting goods industry. The pair became millionaires by the time they sold out to Spalding in 1891. Shibe would later use his wealth to finance the upstart American League’s Philadelphia entry.

    Reach began publishing Reach’s Official Baseball Guide in 1883, as a competitor to Spalding’s annual report of statistics and essays. Suddenly, the nation couldn’t get enough of the sport, information or supplies. Men like Reach and Spalding were there to sell it to them.

    The magnate later bought the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League and built the famed bandbox, the Baker Bowl. Later, as a member of the ill-advised Mills Commission in 1907, Reach signed the proclamation claiming General Abner Doubleday as the founder of the sport, a myth concocted to legitimize the game as a purely American creation.

  • #2
    The New York Clipper listed Al Reach as the 2B for the first All-Star team in 1871. Ross Barnes split time between 2b and ss in 1871. The two had virtually the same FA at 2b at .873 but Barnes out hit Reach .401 to .353.... I haven't seen the complete All-Star listed by the New York Clipper for 1871 but I wonder if Barnes was listed as the SS for that year. George Wright had missed nearly half of the season with an injury in 1871 so Barnes had been moved to SS.

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    • #3
      1871 was the last good offensive season for Al Reach as he was 31 that year. His offensive numbers were really low the seasons following 1871. He was a very good hitter prior to 1871 as well.

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