1877 Boston Red Caps

From BR Bullpen

Team Picture

1877 Boston Red Caps / Franchise: Atlanta Braves / BR Team Page[edit]

Record: 42-18-1; Finished 1st in National League (1877 NL)

History, Comments, Contributions[edit]

The 1877 Boston Red Caps won the first National League pennant in franchise history, in their seventh season as a franchise. The name Boston Red Caps never had any official status, and they were more often called the Boston Red Stockings or simply Bostons.

New Leadership[edit]

The 1876 season was a disaster for Boston, even though the team produced its sixth straight winning season. It was the first time since the team’s inaugural season that the team failed to win the pennant. Even though team president Nicholas Apollonio had been reelected for another term following the 1875 season, despite losing the four seceders to the Chicago White Stockings, the other members of the Boston Base Ball Association were not going to do so again for the up-coming 1877 season, due to the team's poor performance the previous year. Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future with the team, Apollonio still attended the league’s winter meetings with manager Harry Wright as Boston's representatives.

Back in Boston, events were occurring that would change the future of the team, as well as the league, beginning with the emergence as a major player of a local businessman named Arthur Soden. Soden, who owned a roofing service and material supply business, had first become involved with the club in December of 1873, when he was elected to its board of directors. By 1875 he had bought stock in the Association and was named president of the club. Prior to the annual association meeting, Soden had dissolved the Boston Base Ball Club, and as its president attempted to transfer back the 72 shares of forfeited stock and vote at the meeting. Soden was allowed to vote a total of 77 shares (35 of the forfeited shares in conjunction with 42 paid-up shares held by shareholders in attendance). This resulted in the Base Ball Club toppling the old guard of the Base Ball Association.

The team held its annual meeting on December 6th but not a lot that was resolved there, except the following: 1) Apollonio was removed as team president, with former team president Charles Porter elected in his stead; 2) Allan Chase was elected treasurer; 3) John Haynes and Soden were elected to the board of directors.

The meeting was adjourned until December 27th, when “upon this decision being made the books and property of the old club were turned over to the Association.” This also included the 72 shares that the booster club had owned, which were then divided amongst the Association's membership. President Charles Porter chaired the meeting. He stated that the difficulties which had arisen during the previous meeting regarding the forfeited shares of stock had unanimously been submitted to Mr. Walbridge A. Field to resolve the issue. Mr. Field stated that the meeting of the Association that was held three weeks prior had been legal, and that the 78 shares of stock held by the Association, along with the 41 shares held by those were present and voted upon, was sufficient for the transaction of business. It should be noted that both former president Nicholas Apollonio and Frederick Long were legal gentlemen of fame and distinction but differed from Walbridge Field, and that both acquiesced to Field's opinion and surrendered their books and papers, which Porter now held in trust as President. It was then decided that the elections of Arthur Soden and John Haynes to the Board of Directors were the only valid elections. Following this resolution, the meeting then proceeded with the election of the board of directors and with filling the vacancies. The following gentlemen were elected: Frederick E. Long, Allan J. Chase, and Henry Hunt. Charles Porter and Allan Chase both resigned from their positions as president and treasurer, respectively. Soden was elected president, though as Soden would claim, he was only taking the position temporarily, "so that the affairs of the Association might not be impeded in any way."

Porter would then make the motion that an Auditing Committee of three be set up, consisting of two stockholders and a member of the Board of Directors. Appointed to the committee were Charles Porter, James Billings and Allan Chase. Henry Lunt then announced that he was resigning from his position on the Board of Directors, nominating Harry Wright in his place, who was then duly elected by ballot. After which the meeting adjourned. The Auditing Committee would later discover that the team lost a total of $777.22. However, aside from the White Stockings, every team in the National League lost money during its inaugural season.

It was around this time that two other individuals began to make their presence felt in the organization: the previously mentioned James B. Billings, a shoe factory owner, who was on the Auditing Committee, and William Conant, a manufacturer of rubber goods. Along with Soden, these three men would become known as the “Triumvirs” after the triumvirates of Ancient Rome, and be the driving force of the Boston Base Ball Association and the National League in the coming years. At the time neither Billings nor Conant were club officers, nor were they even members of the board of directors, but within ten years of their leadership, all three of the Boston Triumvirs would hold both positions.

Over the ensuing decades, these three men would change the game of baseball both on and off the field, instituting many changes that would have a long-lasting effect on the game. To get the team back into the black, the trio set about tightening their belts and cutting expenses so deep that fans and players yelped. The Boston Triumvirs were also known for their frugality: Complimentary tickets, and the budget for the hotels and road trips were slashed. The Boston Triumvirs would also be seen selling and collecting tickets at the gate. Because of their frugality, they would create a lot of problems for fans, players, and their fellow owners within the organization.

Champions Again[edit]

After the 1876 season had ended, the National League voted to drop the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Mutuals from the league. This was done because both clubs failed to complete their schedules, including rejecting the added incentive of receiving a larger share of the gate receipts. Rather than add more clubs, the league stuck with the six teams for the upcoming season. Former league president Morgan Bulkeley received permission to move his club to Brooklyn, New York for the upcoming season, but it would still retain its Hartford Dark Blues name. In the meantime, Harry Wright set about trying to improve Boston’s fortunes. To replace Joe Borden as pitcher, Wright signed Tommy Bond from Hartford. Deacon White returned from the White Stockings but would play at First Base instead of his regular position as catcher. Ezra Sutton was signed from the Athletics, and would play shortstop, while Harry Schafer moved to right field.

The season opened on April 30th with the team in Brooklyn, the game ending in a 1-1 tie. Boston did not return for its first home game against Chicago until June 16th. As with the previous year, the Boston fans had been looking forward to this match, which resulted in a 7-6 win for the home club. Boston moved into first place on the 18th, where they would stay for eight days when they lost 4-2 to Hartford. By the 28th the team was back in first until July 5th when the St. Louis Brown Stockings took over first place. The first half of the month saw St. Louis and Boston battle for first, while the last half of the month saw the Louisville Grays as Boston's new rival. After spending much of August in either second or third place, the Reds retook first place on August 25th, following a 3-2 win over Louisville and would remain in the first place for the rest of the season. The team clinched the whip pennant on September 17th, with a 13-5 win against the White Stockings, much to the fans' delight. The Reds ended their season on September 29th, with an 8-4 win over Hartford for the team’s 8th straight and 20th out of 21.

Boston's overall record was 42-18-1, going 27-5 at home and 15-13-1 on the road. The team posted winning records against all clubs except St. Louis, against whom they had a 6-6 (.500) record. The Reds posted a 10-2 record against Chicago, outscoring the White Stockings 100 to 62. The team’s biggest win came on June 19th when they “Chicago-ed” St. Louis. Their biggest loss was a 12-2 loss at Chicago on Independence Day. Second Baseman George Wright led the team in at bats (290); First Baseman Deacon White led the team in hits (103), triples (11), RBIs (49) and batting average (.387) and outfielder Jim O'Rourke led the team in runs (68). Despite winning the pennant, Boston continued to lose money at the gate much to the annoyance of the Boston Triumvirs. It would mean more tightening of the belts.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Charlie Bevis: Arthur Soden: Baseball Owner & Capitalist with a Methodist Mission Club President
  • Charlie Bevis: “James Billings”, SABR BioProject, Billings
  • Charlie Bevis: “Charles Porter”, SABR BioProject, Porter
  • Michael Haupert: “1876 Winter Meetings: In the Face of Crisis”
  • Harold Kaese: Boston Braves: 1871-1953, Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA 2004. ISBN 978-1555536176. Originally published in 1948.
  • Bob LeMoine: “Boston Braves team ownership history”, SABR BioProject, Boston Braves owners
  • William H. Lyons: “William H. Conant”, SABR BioProject, Conant
  • Brian McKenna: “Arthur Soden”, SABR BioProject, Soden
  • Albert Spalding: Constitution and playing rules of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. 1877, pg. 63, Albert G. Spalding & Bro., Chicago, 1877