New computer! You’re reading a post typed on a MacBook Air. That’s right…that good ol tax return sure helps sometimes. So maybe I can step up this blog game, huh? We’ll see. For now, I’ve got my new toy, I’ve got a nice cold glass of a good drink, let’s get to it.
The calendar is fast approaching what is, perhaps, the best time of the year. March Madness and, more importantly, the beginning of baseball season. It is on the latter that I will focus on this post, specifically the oldest franchise in Major League Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds.
The history for the Reds is no mystery. The 70’s brought, arguably, the best team the sport has ever seen. The Big Red Machine is well known, but the Reds have a rich history dating back well before 1970. The casual baseball fan can tell you about Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, or Joe Morgan, but what do you know about guys who dawned the Red C well before them? How bout the “Big Klu”, Ted Kluszewski? Or the only pitcher to ever throw back-to-back no hitters, Johnny Vander Meer? I am going to throw out a few posts in the coming weeks about these dudes who helped shape the history of the Reds. Going to start with the man who started it all, Harry Wright.
While they were made in America, the Reds were not made by an American. Harry Wright was born in Sheffield, England. His dad was really good at Cricket. Once he moved to America, Harry learned Cricket from his dad and decided he liked baseball more. Harry got his start in a small league, called the National Association of Base Ball Players (back then they spelled baseball as two words). He then got the idea and began the first ever professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869, when the nation was still cooling off from the Civil War.
Though he stuck around for merely a season, it is Harry Wright who began the Reds. In 1869 they were apart of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. Harry formed a team of super talented men who didn’t lose a game the entire season (they were a lot shorter back then). Harry brought his brother George on to the team and paid him the highest salary of any player in the league, $1400 for nine months. Ironically, Harry Wright assembled such a talented team because he paid a lot…so the whole “buying a championship” argument predates even the National League.
Along with giving up oodles of cash for the players he wanted, Harry also instituted a few defensive innovations to the game. He is credited as being the first to teach his players to back up infield plays with outfielders and he is the first to shift his defensive players based on the situation at hand. Another hotly debated topic in baseball, the defensive shift, started in Cincinnati…and predates the National League.
Harry moved on a year later and managed the Boston Red Stockings. He hung out there for 12 years and won four National Association titles in a row, beginning in 1872. Back then, all you had to do was finish first in the league during the regular season. There was no postseason. He would take Boston into the brand new National League in 1876 and manage the team for 6 years. He then managed the Providence Grays for the 1882 and 1883 seasons, creating the idea of the “farm team” of which he stocked with amateurs who could step in to replace injured pros, when the time came. Harry Wright finished his managerial career with the Philadelphia Quakers from 1884-1893. The Quakers are now more commonly known as the Phillies. Theres another Red who went to Philly.
Harry was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 and into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2005. It is interesting to me, personally, that Harry Wright died on October 3rd, 1895. October 3rd is my birthday.
Harry Wright laid the base for what is now the Cincinnati Reds. As Joey Votto said in an interview just a few days ago, Cincinnati is a baseball town. We all have Harry to thank for that.