, , , , ,

Guest blog by Keith Spalding Robbins

Harry Wright MonumentApril 13, 1896 – 120 Years later a fitting memorial to the Original Red Stocking, Harry Wright.

His epitaph states he was the Father of Baseball.

Of course the father of baseball was the first center fielder, manager and General Manager of the Original Boston Red Stockings. Later he was the supervisor of umpires, and arbiter of issues on the field of play. In today’s corporate baseball vocabulary he is the Chief of Baseball Operations. Interestingly, another Brave of note, Joe Torre has this position today.

Harry Wright is also the first to take advantage of the “free agency” of baseball by scouting and signing the best talent of his day for top dollars. In doing so he created baseball’s first dynasty, the winners of 6 pennants in eight years of Braves history. He was also noted for creating baseball’s first farm team while running the old Providence Grays in the 1880’s.

Harry Wright - 02The title father of baseball is indeed fitting for the leader of the Original Red Stockings of Boston.

In memory of his death in relative poverty and obscurity in an Atlantic City hotel room, the magnates of Baseball dedicated April 13, 1896 as Harry Wright Day.  It was a national baseball benefit day to raise money for the above pictured grave marker. 11 of the 12 teams played benefit games for the old skipper. (The lone recalcitrant was St. Louis). For the record, the Giants easily handled the Mets giving them a 14 to 4 whipping.  At least twenty other benefit games were played on that day in cities great and small: including Detroit, Louisville, Scranton, Peoria, Newport News and Kansas City. (Peoria was a rain out.) College, Semi-pro and amateur teams also participated.

The Beaneaters held two games on a cold rainy April 13th in New England. The current Beaneaters traveled to Derby Ct. and played the Eastern League Springfield MA team, easily beating them, 32-2. Meanwhile in Boston the former Red Stockings held an Old Timers game at the famous South End Baseball Grounds. John Morrill led the ‘old timers’ against the Harvard Nine, 14-10. Two Beaneaters victories on one Day in two cities!

In Cincinnati, a Harry Wright Association was organized of former players of the ‘69 Reds and the survivors of that team, along with Red Stockings’ Deacon White and his brother played for the Reds “Old Timers” against the current team of 1896. Finally in Rockford, Ill, George Wright the old shortstop, donned a Cincinnati Reds Uniform and played an old timers games against AG Spalding and the old Rockford Forest City’s. (It was a rain out lasting just one inning).

A link between the Braves and Rockford Forest Citys: of course. It was the Forest City Nine that Harry Wright raided to make his Boston Nine the best in Baseball. All were given record contracts at the time to leave little Rockford for Boston. The former Rockford baseball heroes were second baseman Ross Barnes and Pitcher AG Spalding. (Five years later the tables would be turned on Harry Wright by “the four seceders” who returned to Chicago.)

“Before today, one 1 team had followed a 9+ game losing streak to start season with a 3-game win streak: 1871 Rockford (Ill.) Forest Citys.”  As we know it was matched by the Braves this season.

Are the Braves now reaping the curse of Harry Wright cast upon them some 145 years later?

Well, not really, or maybe… Before today, only 1 team had followed a 9+ game losing streak to start season with a 3-game win streak: 1871 Rockford (Ill.) Forest Citys.Before today, only 1 team had followed a 9+ game losing streak to start season with a 3-game win streak: 1871 Rockford (Ill.) Forest Citys.as Baseball-reference.com notes that while the Rockford Forest Citys were devoid of two of their best players thanks to Harry Wrights’ raid, Rockford finished last, going 4 -21. They did win three in a row to reach 3-16, but they won two of their first four games. Both these games were later forfeited with Rockford taking the loss. In Game Two of 1871 Rockford won 15-12 beating the Old Nationals (Olympics) of Washington. According to the NY Clipper 20 May 1871, Scott Hastings the team’s catcher played for another team the Lone Star Nine of New Orleans on April 16 and was seasonally ineligible until June 16th to play for Rockford. On May 5, 1871 Hastings did play and was allowed by both umpire and opposition to so there is some question about his ineligibility. Nevertheless, Rockford was doomed, if they won any game with Hastings the opposition would claim a forfeit and turn a loss into a win. Such was life in the old National Association, which of course is why there is the National League of today. So Rockford started the season 0-16, with 4 forfeits, its first and last season as a “big league” town.

The lesson of Harry Wright, as the front office genius, the scouting, development, and paying for top flight players will have its reap the rewards of winning. And it’s the same formula every winning team has realized since the days of Harry Wright the architect of the Braves first dynasty.

With the 120th Anniversary of Harry Wright’s day come and gone, it is a reminder of how in baseball, there is a season for winning and losing, and the Braves are adroit at both.

Way back in 1871, the Braves stared their season beating the Nationals 20-18, and now some 145 years later the Braves started their season hosting the Nationals and this time losing 3-4.Before today, only 1 team had followed a 9+ game losing streak to start season with a 3-game win streak: 1871 Rockford (Ill.) Forest Citys.