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

The Boston Red Stockings was one of the most successful teams of the 19th century. Formed with the core players of the Cincinnati Red Stockings and managed by Harry Wright. The Red Stockings dominated the National Association during its five years of existence. After William Hulbert stole four of the team’s players for the 1876 season, the team rebounded to win the next two National League pennants giving the team a total of six pennants in eight seasons. Unfortunately the team was not able to capitalize on its success in the new league and by the start of the 1880s, the team’s off field success had dropped. Following two back-to-back losing seasons, Wright was out as team manager. Under manager John Morrill the team would win a third pennant in 1883, but unfortunately this would be the only pennant the team would win with Morrill at the helm. It would not be until the 1890s that the team under the guidance of manager Frank Selee would the team capture the magic it had in the 1870s.


Team Origins[edit]

The origins of the Atlanta Braves can be traced past the city of Milwaukee, WI all the way to the city of Boston, MA in the late 19th century. It must be noted that the seeds of what was to become the Atlanta Braves were most likely planted on June 10, 1869, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings came to town to play a couple games against the local teams: The Lowell Base Ball Club and the Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club. At the time the Red Stockings had just started the east coast portion of their tour and were taking on any all teams that would challenge them. A crowd of 2,000 spectators was there to witness the game, including a businessman named Ivers Whitney Adams who it was reported had a vision of the future in which large crowds witnessed professional baseball in Boston. Red Stockings’ manager Harry Wright realized that the city was undergoing a major overhaul and revival even though the Common was an unsuitable playing site.

Prior to the start of the season, the city of Boston ruled the Boston Common as being unusable as a site for baseball. As a result many clubs were forced to look elsewhere to play their games. As for the Cincinnati/Lowell baseball game being held at the Commons, was probably due to the fact that the Lowells expected a large crowd and needed a big enough playing field for such a crowd. Mostly likely as a result, Adams plans for professional baseball coming to Boston were put on hold. Eventually a site was chosen in the south end, which was located in Roxbury. Political candidates running for office that year, who were in favor of improving the site and turning it into a suitable playing field were elected to office. The ballpark was completed in time for the 1870 season, and was originally called the Union Grounds. Later on the park would become known as the South End Grounds I.

That June the Cincinnati Red Stockings would make their return to Boston to play games against the Harvard Crimson, and the Lowells. Both games were held at the new ballpark and were wins for the Red Stockings. The Red Stockings’ winning streak would end on the 14th against the Brooklyn Atlantics. By the end of the month their record was 36-1 (.973). The second half started on July 2nd with the Red Stockings defeating the Rockford Forest Citys, and it would not be until late July before the team would lose for the second time. On August 3rd, team President Aaron Champion appeared before the board and gave an update on the team’s financial record and that all was well.

It was then that Champion, Secretary John Joyce and another board member Thomas Smith then offered their resignations which were accepted. The Red Stockings would lose their third game on September 7th , but it would not be until October that the team would lose 3 games in one month. When the season ended on November 5th, the team had posted a second half record of 31-5-1 (.851) for an overall record of 67-6-1 (.912). Granted it was not a perfect season, but nevertheless a spectacular one. Naturally it was assumed that the team would be back for the next season. But six days later, team president A.P.C. Bonte announced that it had been decided that the club would not field a team for the next year and hence forth the team was suspending operations. Bonte would then accuse Wright of heading a conspiracy to extract increasingly higher salaries from ballclubs across the nation in order to double the team’s salaries with the Red Stockings and demanded to see the contracts before any of his players signed them. While the Cincinnati Chronicle ran with this and accused Wright of being a fraud. In the Cincinnati Daily Gazette it was reported that fans accused the players, particularly the Wright Brothers of sabotage. The Cincinnati Commercial on the other hand remained loyal to the players.

Harry Wright would remain quiet during this time. Eventually when he did speak, he said that he was disappointed that the team had disbanded. He told the Commercial that with the exception of his brother George, all the players would have re-signed with the team if they had been given reasonable terms. In fact, Charlie Gould and Cal McVey had rejected offers by other teams to remain in Cincinnati. George Wright had been singled out as it had been known since June that he had wanted to leave the team and be captain of his own club. During this time Ivers Adams had been corresponding with the brothers, trying to convince them to relocate to Boston and to be a part of his new franchise that he was undertaking. 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, and centerfielder. 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 have 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. 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. Players like Asa Brainard and his fellow revelers could be rather exasperating at times due to their off-field behavior. Wright needed to know if the proposed ownership would provide the financial resources to keep the team afloat. He also wanted more control with this team than he had in Cincinnati. It was resolved that Adams would meet the prospective owners to see if they had enough commitment to sustain the team.

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. In addition, Adams would also secure a lease at the Union Grounds for the team to play their home games for the upcoming season.

The Birth of a Baseball Club[edit]

The Atlanta Braves (then the Boston Red Stockings) were born on Friday, January 20, 1871, at the Parker House Hotel, home of the Boston Cream Pie. It was here that the Wright Brothers were introduced local businessmen of Boston would become their backers for the new team they were now a part of. It was reported that Harry Wright was first introduced to Henry Lille Pierre, who built the Baker Chocolate Company. Pierre would go on to become mayor of Boston, and then serve in Congress for two terms before serving a second term as mayor. Pierre was followed by Frank George Wright, the Dean of State Street, was a book binder who worked at Kidder and Peabody & Co. The meeting was soon called to order, with Adams taking the chair. He would address the group, telling them why he had gathered them together. He told them that he had a dream of bringing professional baseball to the city of Boston, and that he wanted his fellow businessmen to make it a reality. Adams then told the group that he had signed ballplayers for the upcoming season and found a place for the team to play. Basically Adams wanted the group to contribute to a $15,000.00 stock buying venture. However, the purchase price was more of a pledge than an actual payment and when necessary, the stockholders could be called on to pay further assessments on their pledge up to the face value of the stock.

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. Elected to the other positions were: John A. Conkey a local customs broker and forwarder, estate trustee and bank notary, who was elected vice president. Harrison Gardner, a dry-goods merchant, was elected treasurer; and Charles A. Burditt, not George Burditt, was in the hardware business, rounded out the board of directors. The other remaining businessmen who were there that day and would also contribute to the financial backing were: Eben Jordan, the founder of the department store Jordan Marsh; Edward White, who was in the clothing and real estate business; James Freeland, who was also in the clothing business; John F. Mills, who owned the Parker House; Nathan T. Apollonio, was a clerk by trade who directed operations for the Great Falls Manufacturing Co. and Charles Porter who was a Parks Commissioner. Adams 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. Two hundred tickets were sold to interested people, which granted them free admission to all home games including the usage of the clubhouse. However these tickets were not tickets of membership nor were they stock in the corporation, but rather they were more like season tickets and a membership in a fan club of sorts.

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 Philadlephia, the Brooklyn Atlantics, the team would be called Boston, after the city, and not after a sports club. 3) The team would also adopt the same financial planning and ideals as the Red Stockings. This was due to the fact that there was no set plans on how to run a professional baseball team and as a result would later come back to give the team some problems later on.

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 second place (third by modern standards), 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.

Team Name[edit]

Officially, the Boston Base Ball Association it had no nickname. The team was referred to in the singular as Boston, or in the plural as Bostons. From day one, the press referred to the team as the "Red Stockings" due to their red stockings. Often times the team was referred to as the Reds for short. When the team joined the National League or when there was a second Boston team, the press would refer to the team as the Nationals. At times in the same article Boston was referred to by various names. 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". There has been one documented instance in which the name Red Caps was used, and that came in a Boston Globe article dated October 12, 1884, which the headline read "Buffalo beats the Boston Red Caps fourteen to five."

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.
  • Harold Kaese: Boston Braves: 1871-1953, Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA 2004. ISBN 978-1555536176. Originally published in 1948.
  • 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]