Friday, May 8, 2009

An Established Fact

The St. Louis Base Ball Association is an established fact, and the new club is now prepared to engage first-class players who can show a clear record for honest, faithful services, such as Joe Start and players like "old honesty" can display.  Al Wright, the scorer and secretary of the Athletic club, has been engaged as manager, and players should address him.
-Forest and Stream, October 15, 1874

Al Wright will not manage the St. Louis Base Ball Club next season, he preferring to stay with the old Athletic nine.  The St. Louis nine, he says, will be as follows: Catcher, Mullen, of Easton; pitcher, Bradley, of Easton; first base, Dehlman, of Atlantic; second base, Battin, of Athletic; third base, Fleet of Atlantic; short-stop, Battin, of Athletic; left field, Cuthbert of Chicago; centre field, Pike, of Hartford; right field, Waitt, of Easton.  All of the above have signed except Pearch and Fleet, Mullen having been paid $100 bonus.
-Forest and Stream, November 19, 1874

While Chadwick was at work building up the game in New York and Meacham, Spink and others were employed in introducing it to the people of the West, Alfred H. Wright was at work with pen and pencil fostering and introducing the game to the people of Philadelphia.

I have mentioned him as one of the few who knew how to score the game in the sixties, according to the tabulated record in use by all well posted baseball reporters of today.

Like Chadwick, Spink, Caylor and the rest of the early baseball scribes, Wright's work as a baseball writer was wholly a labor of love.

He was born at Cedar Grove, New Jersey, but received his early education at the Central High School in Philadelphia.

Wright's father was a prominent publisher and book seller, and the boy found time to play at "Old Cat" or town ball, and is said to have been the first to introduce that sort of thing to Philadelphia.  That was in 1858, and that the game caught on rapidly was proven when two years later the Athletic Club of Philadelphia was organized.  

In 1858 Mr. Wright was so enamored of baseball that he went to New York and for ten years he played with the leading teams representing that city on the diamond.

Ten years later, in 1868, he returned to Philadelphia and went to work there writing baseball for the Sunday Mercury.  He made that newspaper in the ten years following the leading baseball paper of Philadelphia and secured such a fine reputation as a baseball writer that he was employed by Mr. Frank Queen to take the place of Mr. Chadwick on the New York Clipper, a position he held until illness drove him from active service.  

Mr. Wright was the first reporter of his day to compile the National League averages in the initial year of that organization.  He was also the first to suggest that the championship go to the club which won the largest percentage of games.

For eleven years Mr. Wright was the official scorer of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, accompanying them on all their trips and even going with them to England in 1874.  

He was also the manager of the Athletics in 1876 and also the manager of the co-operative team known as the Athletics in 1878.

From the opening to the close of his career, Al. Wright was early and late employed in the furthering and building up of the game he had loved and followed from his early boyhood days.
-The National Game

While I can't speak intelligently about the accuracy of the facts which Al Spink presents regarding Wright (and don't feel the need right now to check them), I will say that I'm pretty sure that "that sort of thing" was being played in Philadelphia prior to 1858.  


Richard Hershberger said...

Without doing any real digging, the facts of Wright's life from 1868 onward seem right. I have no contemporary evidence for his involvement with baseball or townball in Philadelphia prior to his moving to New York in 1858.

That 1878 Athletics club mentioned is an interesting middle stage in the downward spiral of Philadelphia baseball in the late 1870s. Its connection to the old Athletics was tenuous but not patently absurd. It was a decent regional team. They mostly played locally, but traveled to Easton and Washington. Clubs like New Bedford and Utica played them while passing through town. They didn't play any League clubs. From your perspective their most notable player was Charlie Waitt.

David Ball said...

Wright said in the fall of 1874 that he had acted as a representative of the St. Louis club in the east for a while until he stepped down in favor of another prominent eastern reporter, and the item about his deciding to stay with the Athletics may explain why he stepped down. He signed (probably among others) George Bradley and Tom Miller of the Easton club.

Miller is AKA Mullen if you're a Forest and Stream reader, and Dickey Pearche is cleverly disguised as Pearche. I've read a little of the Forest and Stream coverage, and there are a lot of mistakes like this.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I thought I had posted something about Wright before but didn't find anything in the blog archives. However, about a year ago, I published something from Cash's book about Orrick Bishop going east to sign players for the Brown Stockings and Wright's name came up in the comments (as did the Miller contract).

Cash mentioned that Bishop signed Pike, Pearce, Dehlman and Chapman with no mention of Wright's role in signing players. He went on to write that Bishop "discovered the rest of his starting nine in and around Philadelphia..." Interestingly, Spink doesn't mention Wright's role either. However, it makes perfect sense that the Brown Stockings would have an eastern agent acting for them-someone who knew the teams and players and could bird dog for them. Also, if the plan was for Wright to manage the club, it would make sense to have him signing the players and putting together the team. It probably was not until Wright decided not to manage the club that Bishop went east and signed more players (and if my memory is correct, I think this was in November).

Not sure about the other "prominent eastern reporter."