Boston Red Stockings

From BR Bullpen

Boston Red Stockings[edit]

Officially: Boston Base Ball Association (Jan. 21, 1871-Oct. 9, 1886)


  • Overall: Apr. 6, 1871-Oct. 9, 1886: 762-486-18 (.609), RS: 8749, RA: 6510 (Diff.: 2239)
  • National Association: Apr. 6, 1871-Oct. 30, 1875: 225-60-7 (.783), RS: 3227, RA: 1757 (Diff.: 1470)
  • Exhibition Record: 136-17-2 (.889), RS: 3384, RA: 878 (Diff.: 2506)
  • Ballparks: South End Grounds I (Overall) Apr. 6, 1871-Oct. 9, 1886: 419-200-5 (.674), RS: 4569, RA: 2818 (Diff.: 1751);
  • Pennants:
  • National Association: 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875
  • National League: 1877, 1878, 1883

Team History[edit]

The Boston Red Stockings was the name of the powerful franchise assembled by Harry Wright which was the class of the National Association during its five-year existence. Throughout this five-year run, the team was managed by Wright, and won four pennants The Red Stockings franchise's combined record from 1871 to 1875 was 225 wins against 60 losses and 7 ties for a .783 win percentage.

Boston Base Ball Association[edit]

Harry Wright had been the captain of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first-ever professional baseball team. When he moved to Boston with a number of the team's best players, he took the name along with him, but then let it go out of deference to the city of Cincinnati, OH, when the Cincinnati Reds (then known as the Red Stockings too) became charter members of the National League alongside the Boston franchise in 1876. The Boston National league club thus was officially named the Boston Red Caps, although the name "Red Stockings" was still largely used by fans and sportswriters. Ironically, it was eventually officially adopted in by the new Boston Red Sox of the American League, while the original Boston Red Stockings became mostly known as the Boston Braves and are the direct ancestors of today's Atlanta Braves.

The winter of 1870/71[edit]

Following the 1870 season, it was believed that the Cincinnati Red Stockings would be returning for another season with almost all of their players. The exception was shortstop George Wright. In fact George’s brother, Harry, singled him out when he informed the newspaper Commercial that with the exception of his brother, all players would have returned if they had been offered reasonable terms. It had been known since June that George wanted to go off and be the captain of his own team. In fact, sometime following the end of the season, in early November, George was in Boston, MA meeting with a businessman, Ivers Adams about putting together his own team.

Ivers Whitney Adams worked at the office of John H. Pray, Sons and Co. and was no stranger to the game of baseball. Because of where his office was located, he was an occasional spectator at the Boston Commons ball field, where one of the top amateur teams, the Lowell Base Ball Club, played. The Cincinnati Red Stockings came to town on June 10, 1869 and defeated the Lowells by a score of 29-9 before a crowd of 2,000. Adams saw that Boston had a bright future for professional baseball. Now Adams was not just an avid sportsman, but he was also a shrewd businessman. He realized that with a pro baseball team, it would raise the business community of the city into the same realm as New York City and Philadelphia as one of the America’s leading cities, and that it would be an economic gain.

He soon set about planning for a new team. In November of 1870, he first met with George Wright about putting one together. However when George was offered the position of manager, he declined. He then told Adams about his brother Harry. Adams and Harry met later in the month. Adams offered him a salary of $2,500, the roles of manager and captain, centerfielder, as well as club secretary and the responsibilities of scheduling games and the negotiating of finances.

The elder Wright told Adams he needed a few days to consider the offer, but on November 30th he agreed to the job. Of the nine starters from the 1870 season, Wright only took his brother George, Charlie Gould, and Cal McVey with him to Boston. The rest signed with the Washington Olympics. Wright did not pursue the others because he wanted no drinkers, growlers or shirkers, and the remaining players were considered to be just that, even though they were good ballplayers. Of the Olympic five, Asa Brainard and Fred Waterman would be the only players to never played in the National League. Teammates Doug Allison and Andy Leonard would end their careers in the 1880s.

The first non-Red Stockings' player Wright signed, was Al Spalding of the Rockford Forest Citys. At first Wright wanted his new club to be an amateur club even though $15,000 had been supplied by various Boston backers. It was Spalding who convinced him to remain professional. After what had happened in Cincinnati, it was understandable why Wright was reluctant to play another season of professional baseball. The Cincinnati Red Stockings had known some financial problems, caused by travel expenses as well as salaries. Not to mention that Brainard and his fellow revelers could be rather exasperating at times due to their off-field behavior.

Wright and Spalding then went and recruited Spalding's former Rockford teammates Ross Barnes to play second base and Fred Cone in the outfield. Rounding out the team, Wright brought in Harry Schafer from the Philadelphia Athletics, to play third; Dave Birdsall from the Morrisania Unions joined Cone and Wright in the outfield. Local talent Frank Barrows joined from the Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club and with Sam Jackson, making his first-ever baseball start, would serve as a substitute.

The Team is Organized[edit]

The Boston Red Stockings were organized on January 20, 1871, at the Parker House, which is a hotel in Boston (which is still operating a century and a half later). Officially the club was known as the "Boston Base Ball Association". As with the Red Stockings about five years previously, team by-laws were drawn up, and club officers were elected that day. Adams, who was instrumental in organizing the team and bringing everyone together, was elected President, while Harry Wright was elected secretary. Rounding the remaining positions were: John A. Conkey, a local broker, as vice president; Harrison Gardner, a dry-goods merchant, treasurer; and George Burditt, an accountant, as the fifth director on the team's board of directors.

Unlike the Red Stockings of the 1860s, these Red Stockings would be different, at least in terms of how the team was set up. At the inaugural meeting, Adams introduced as number of policies that would become the foundation for the team for about 25 years. These were some of his ideas: 1) The Red Stockings would be established as a corporation, which meant that a bill was to be sent through the state legislature; 2) Unlike other teams of the day, such as the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, the Atlantic of Brooklyn etc. the team would be called Boston, after the city, and not after a sports club. Adams also used his business connections to raise $15,000 by selling shares of the team, and convincing local businessmen to join as owners. Among those were: Eben Jordan, the founder of the department store Jordan Marsh; the future Mayor and owner of the Baker's Chocolate factory, Henry Pierce; and the owner of the Parker House, John F. Mills. He also encouraged the team's shareholders, members of the club, friends, and anyone who would take an interest in the success of the club to invest; mostly, he targeted the upper-middle class.

As far as where the team would play, Adams decided to rent land where the Union Grounds were located and build a ballpark there. It would become known as the South End Grounds. The Red Stockings played a majority of their home games there until halfway through the 1914 season. The Red Stockings then became one of the founding members in the first professional league, the National Association on March 17th of that same year. The team went 22-10-1 in its first year, and though they finished in third place, Adams was pleased with his team's success as were the other club members, who had Adams re-elected. But Adams decided to step down and focus on his regular job.

The next four years saw the team increase its number of games, which increased their number of wins. Between 1871 and 1874, the Red Stockings would win an average of 10 games more than the previous season. In the team's last season in the National Association, the team increased its wins by 19. During the off-season months between 1875 and 1876, the Red Stockings lost several players though, including Al Spalding to the Chicago White Stockings. That did not stop Wright who added more players. The team joined the National League on February 2, 1876; in spite of various name changes and relocations, that is where they remain today, as the Atlanta Braves.

In spite of the addition of a new Cincinnati Red Stockings team in the National League in 1876, observers would continue to use the "Red Stockings" nickname until the mid-1880s, when the team would become unofficially known as the Boston Beaneaters. Retroactively, the team has been given the name Boston Red Caps to cover its first seven years in the National League, while its Cincinnati namesake has been dubbed the "Reds", but this does not reflect the prevailing contemporary practice.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Christopher Devine: Harry Wright: The Father of Professional Base Ball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1561-8
  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March, 1993.
  • Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin: Boston's First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016. ISBN 978-1-943816-29-3
  • Wayne Soini: It Happened in Boston: Harry & George Wright's Creation of Professional Baseball in the year 1872, independently published, 2022. ISBN 979-8431584015
  • Troy Soos: Before the Curse: The Glory Days of New England Baseball, 1858-1918, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2006.
  • George Tuohey: A History of the Boston Base Ball Club, M.F. Quinn, Boston, MA, 1897.

Other Sources[edit]