Ironically, one of the games first superstar players also goes down as maybe the biggest of the founding fathers. Al Spalding did a lot for the game of baseball and even the common fan today only vaguely recognizes his name. Al Spalding grew up in the baseball world near Chicago. He first makes a name for himself when he was the pitcher for his local Forest City team and they defeated the widely-known Nationals team from Washington during the latter's tour of the country. He was just seventeen then and only getting started in terms of baseball. He did feel that baseball players should be paid and even was an unofficial pro, although briefly in the 1860s. By 1871, Spalding was considered one of the best players and played for the Boston club in the National Association; a team that won the last four championships of that league's short lived span.
At the end of the 1874, Spalding arranged for a visit to England to show off baseball to the outside world. Harry Wright joined him as did other top players and although it was not a huge success, it does show that even as a young man of 24 years, Spalding was already trying to show the world the sport of baseball.
Before the end of the 1875 NA season, Spalding was lured by William Hulbert back to Chicago. "Your a western boy" he was told and the promise of a percentage of the gate was enough to get him to sign with Hulbert and his Chicago team in the new National League. Spalding shadowed Hulbert through the process of getting the other owners to buy into his idea for this new league. It worked and Spalding and the Chicago won the National League's inaugural season with Spalding winning an amazing 47 games as a pitcher. The next season though, Spalding's arm was tired and he moved to first base, but only briefly. He wanted to turn to the business side of sports and baseball. He retired as a player, managed then moved to the front office and was president of Chicago for ten years..
Within a few years, Spalding was probably the most known man in baseball. He had borrowed some money from his mother, built a sporting goods company, arranged for the National League to use only his baseballs in its games and then in 1888-89 bankrolled a world tour. So many stars when on this trip, which toured Hawaii, Australia, Egypt, Italy, and ending in England. Although financially a failure, it had definitely spread the game of baseball around globe.
In his later years, Spalding had begun to wonder about the game origins. This interest might have been sparked during his tour, when some of the people of England stated baseball reminded them of the old game of rounders. Spalding wanted baseball to be pure American and created a commission to find the answer. Later known as the Mills Commission, the committee found no answers until a random letter from Abner Graves gave Spalding the answer he sought. Baseball was created by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown in 1839! What made the story better was that Doubleday was a Civil War General and inventor of the cable car system in the west Although the story would later be doubted by most experts, Spalding's dedication and loyalty to baseball cannot be doubted. His book, America's National Game, written a few years before his death, is still one of the great reference books used today by baseball historians. Spalding's position as a founding father can never be taken away.