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  • Wright Brothers

    George and Harry Wright formed the nucleus of the unbeatable Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869-70. They were the sons of a famous British cricket player. Both would be elected to the Hall of Fame for their contributions to the development of the sport.

    Harry had been lured west to Cincinnati in 1865 to take employment as an instructor at the Union Cricket Club. He was an organizer, manager and recruiter who quickly assembled the game’s finest professionals and began barnstorming. They logged 12,000 miles while performing for over 200,000 cranks, that is, fans. The club’s 91-game winning streak inspired other communities to sign and develop the best talent they could. Their feats sparked the nation’s interest. Baseball would soon grow from a local attraction to a national spectacle. Harry would go on to manage in the big leagues until 1893 when he became chief of umpires. He is also believed to be the initiator of hand signals, as a manager.

    George was the best player of the early professional era, the first great shortstop. In 1869 he scored 339 times with 49 home runs and a .629 batting average in a mere 57 games. Those stats give one the feeling that the game was not far removed from the sandlot. He became the dominate hitter of the National Association. In his sole season as manager in 1879 he led Providence to the National League pennant over his brother in Boston. George is the only manager to do so in his lone season at the helm of a major league franchise.

    In 1871 George began a sporting goods business in Boston. He took on Henry Ditson as a partner in 1879, forming Wright & Ditson. They became wealthy men supplying the nation with baseball gloves and balls, even the Union Association in 1884. As a sporting goods magnate, Wright used his influence to foster the growth of other sports, as well. He is partly responsible for popularizing tennis and ice hockey in the United States. He even introduced Boston to golf and designed the city’s first course. Wright toiled for the company until he was ninety years old.

    Sparking monumental implications for the future of golf in the United States, George encouraged his twenty-year-old salesman, Francis Ouimet, to participate in the 1913 U.S. Open at the hometown Country Club course in Brookline, Massachusetts, the nation’s first country club. Ouimet became the first amateur to capture the title, invigorating grass root interest in an expensive, little-understood sport traditionally dominated by disreputable professionals and rarely-admired foreigners.

    George was also a member of the Mills’ Commission in 1907; though, he never actually attended any meetings. The Wrights, above all others, should have understood baseball’s evolution from British contests, unpopular as the thought might have been.

  • #2
    Originally posted by bkmckenna

    Sparking monumental implications for the future of golf in the United States, George encouraged his twenty-year-old salesman, Francis Ouimet, to participate in the 1913 U.S. Open at the hometown Country Club course in Brookline, Massachusetts, the nation’s first country club. Ouimet became the first amateur to capture the title, invigorating grass root interest in an expensive, little-understood sport traditionally dominated by disreputable professionals and rarely-admired foreigners.
    Man, I read 'The Greatest Game Ever Played' and remember Ouimet's boss as 'George Wright' but never put it together that it was THAT George Wright!

    BTW, the two professionals that Ouimet beat in that Open were pretty 'reputable' golf professionals....Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.

    Yankees Fan Since 1957

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    • #3
      yeah - i know - i was referring to how pro golfers were reviewed in general - as a step above hustlers

      just because the book was eloquent and we now view sports history as nostalgic - doesn't mean it was viewed that way when it was happening

      amatuerism was embraced in golf and football and it took a long time to boost the pro game
      Last edited by Brian McKenna; 02-14-2006, 07:36 PM.

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      • #4
        That was great, Brian, people forget the "other" Wright bros. too easy. Hoever, I have to be a jerk and say that Georgie was not the dominant NA batsman. That honor goes to Ross Barnes by a huge margin.

        What do you know about Asa Brainard between 1860 and 70? By the time he hit the NA he was over the hill, but all accounts have him pegged as the great pitcher of his day (after Creighton died, and they actually played together). Somebody at baseball reference points out that pitching "Ace" is a reference to Brainard. You got any good info on him?
        "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

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        • #5
          yeah - you're right about barnes - i wrote that a while ago - don't know what i was thinking

          off the top of my head, brianard:
          - drank himself out of the game
          - he often begged off work claiming illness and injuries which were probably related to his drinking
          - suspect in the game-fixing scandal involving the 1969-70 reds
          - he threw hard, had good control, varied his speeds well and wasn't afraid to pitch inside

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          • #6
            Many years ago, while wandering through an old book store in Boston, I ran across a dusty old book on cricket called "Felix on the Bat." It was published in London in 1855. There was a penciled inscription inside the book that read (from recall) "I read this book many times as a child, hoping to grow up to be the cricket player that my father was." (signed) "Geo. Wright."

            Of course I immediately crapped all over myself. I purchased the book for $20. I donated the book to the HOF at Cooperstown and believe they spend a lot of money restoring the book. I got a lifetime free pass to the HOF.

            I don't really second-guess that decision for a book like that needed to be preserved in a place like the HOF, but I imagine it would be worth a bundle today on the open market.

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            • #7
              As I think back on the book I recall that it contained an illustration of a "catapult." It was used for batting practice. Since the book was published in 1855 I feel safe in calling it the first modern pitching machine.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bkmckenna
                yeah - i know - i was referring to how pro golfers were reviewed in general - as a step above hustlers

                just because the book was eloquent and we now view sports history as nostalgic - doesn't mean it was viewed that way when it was happening

                amatuerism was embraced in golf and football and it took a long time to boost the pro game
                Oh, that's very true...I wasn't disagreeing with you at all. merely that the two better viewed pros, Vardon and Ray, were the two that Ouimet defeated.

                In fact, the pros weren't even allowed in the clubhouses at various courses around the States.

                Yankees Fan Since 1957

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                • #9
                  Thanks, Old Mike, for thinking of the rest of us baseball fans when you found that book! So many people would have sold it to the highest bidder. The lifetime HOF pass is well deserved.

                  I hope you were able to clean yourself up before the drive home though...
                  Your luck has expired. Please purchase new luck.

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                  • #10
                    Felix on the Bat

                    This is the link to the HOF and the book.



                    http://abner.baseballhalloffame.org/...ght&SORT=D&6,6,

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                    • #11
                      As I recall that bookstore in which I found it was a real goldmine for me back about 1980. The other nugget was the first Carl Mays biography; not the one by Mike Sowell called "The Pitch that Killed," but rather one by a sportswriter called Bob McGarigle. It is very tough to find.

                      Getting back to the George Wright book. It wasn't out on the regular shelf, but rather behind the main desk. The owner sometimes put aside books for regular customers. I asked about baseball books and he said, "Nothing new, but you might be interested in this cricket book." I tried to buy it right on the spot but the store owner told me that he had promised it to another customer; a deal that had been discussed over the phone. The owner told me to come back in two weeks and if the other interested party had no purchased it by then, it would be mine. Those were two tough weeks, let me tell you.

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                      • #12
                        A couple of things. I believe his son Beals was a top tennis player. (His son was named after a teammate)
                        According to Deacon White, George could throw with either hand and with authority. (Don't ask me where I read it.)
                        I place George above Barnes, and I think his contemperaries would agree with this assessment. However, I could be wrong and often am.

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                        • #13
                          Actually, Barnes was regarded by his contemporaries to be the premiere hitter of the league, the New York Clipper chose him as best hitter four straight years and best fielding 2B six straight, but Wright and Barnes did form the first great double play combo. Imagine a pair that could field like that and hit like that today.

                          But here's a great story about Wright:

                          An unusual play highlights the Athletics-Boston match in Philadelphia. With the Athletics leading 4-1 in the 7th inning, and runners on 1B and 2B, Fergy Malone pops up to SS George Wright. Wright catches the ball in his hat and then throws the ball to 3B after which it is thrown to 2B. Wright claims a double play has been completed, as a batter cannot be retired with a "hat catch," and thus runners Cap Anson and Bob Reach are forced out. The umpire finally gives Malone another at-bat, declaring nobody out. Athletics win 6-4.
                          "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            An unusual play highlights the Athletics-Boston match in Philadelphia. With the Athletics leading 4-1 in the 7th inning, and runners on 1B and 2B, Fergy Malone pops up to SS George Wright. Wright catches the ball in his hat and then throws the ball to 3B after which it is thrown to 2B. Wright claims a double play has been completed, as a batter cannot be retired with a "hat catch," and thus runners Cap Anson and Bob Reach are forced out. The umpire finally gives Malone another at-bat, declaring nobody out. Athletics win 6-4.
                            That's not fair.
                            Last edited by Gashouse6; 02-19-2006, 05:44 PM.
                            GOT ALBERT?
                            St. Louis Cardinals BBFTG Website
                            http://www.freewebs.com/bbftg6/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally Posted by bkmckenna
                              George was the best player of the early professional era, the first great shortstop. In 1869 he scored 339 times with 49 home runs and a .629 batting average in a mere 57 games. Those stats give one the feeling that the game was not far removed from the sandlot. He became the dominate hitter of the National Association. In his sole season as manager in 1879 he led Providence to the National League pennant over his brother in Boston. George is the only manager to do so in his lone season at the helm of a major league franchise.
                              It doesn't matter how many games or where it was played. Those are some pretty good stats. In a real major league ballpark and in 162 games, I can imagine that .629 AVE. would shrink.
                              Last edited by Gashouse6; 02-19-2006, 05:42 PM.
                              GOT ALBERT?
                              St. Louis Cardinals BBFTG Website
                              http://www.freewebs.com/bbftg6/

                              Comment

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