After the civil war, it was obvious baseball was headed toward professionalism. Jim Creighton was always believed to be paid and in 1867, Al Spalding (17 years old) was offered a clerkship if he played baseball for the Chicago Excelsiors. But up until 1869, it was still kept a secret for the most part. The biggest baseball event in the early years after the Civil War, was the great national tour of the Washington Nationals Club in 1867. In that year, the Nationals were by far the best team in the land and they set out to prove it. The great writer and baseball expert, Henry Chadwick accompanied them on the tour. There star player was shortstop George Wright, younger brother of already well known, Harry Wright.
One of the Nationals first games was a rout of 90-10 at Columbus. Other blow out game ensued and Nationals garnered headlines throughout the country that summer. Then they rolled into Chicago, where a number of good teams played. There first game though was against the Forest City Club of Rockford, led by future stars, Al Spalding and Ross Barnes. It was a back and forth battle from the start although the Forest City team was visand by mid-game, 17 year old pitcher, Spalding and the rest of his teammates sensed and upset. So did the Nationals and by the end of the day, Forest City had surprised the country with a 29-23 win. Spalding instantly became reknowned. But to show just how much of a surprise the game had been , the Nationals trounced Forest City's cross-town rival, Chicago Excelsiors, 49-4 the very next day. The Excelsiors would never recover.
By 1869, Aaron Champion, a Cincinnati businessman was ready to take professionalism public. He along with a number of Ohio investors contacted Harry Wright and gave him a $15,000 cap to build the team. Harry Wright, already known as being a keen manager, quickly contacted his younger brother, George, who was quickly becoming one of the best players in the country. Out of the ten regular players that would play for Wright's Red Stockings only would be from Cincinnati. Below is the team with their salaries.
The first professional baseball team.
Player - Position
Harry Wright -CF
George Wright- SS
Asa Brainard - P
Douglas Allison- C
Charles Gould - 1B
Charles Sweasy - 2B
Fred Waterman - 3B
Andrew Leonard - LF
Calvin McVey - RF
Richard Hurley - Sub
Wright was a strict manager and set up practices, arranged infield and outfield positions during games and was the first to use strategies. With the high salaries the players received they followed his lead. Winning also helped and as the Red Stockings ventured east, they quickly showed the country how baseball was to be played. Their tour gained national recognition and teams folded beneath them as baseball fever continued to spread. Games were viewed by thousands of "fans" and Cincinnati would not lose a game in the 65 they played that season. They did, however, have two noteworthy games.
First was a disputed tie in a heated game against the Haymakers of Troy. After Troy tied the game in the 5th inning, the team left so that their owner would not have to pay a supposedly $60,000 bet. The second game was a beautifully played 4-2 win against the Mutuals of New York before another large crowd. All Cincinnati's games were played before paying crowds although the Red Stockings only managed a $1.39 profit by the end of the tour. But the tour was successful nonetheless. They outscored opponents 2395 to 575 in the 65 games with George Wright leading the way with 59 homers and a .518 batting average. They gained recognition for the sport of baseball and they shifted the balance of baseball from the East to the West.
They next year they continued their winning ways, winning their first 27 games and increasing their unbeaten streak to 93 games. But then, in another of baseball's early classic games they lost to the Atlantics of Brooklyn in an 8-7, 11 inning game. After 9 innings the game was tied and the Atlantics tried to leave the field. But Harry Wright would have none of it and he conferred with Henry Chadwick, who's knowledge of rules was accepted by all. He stated that the rules called for extra innings if the game was tied of nine innings. The game went on and when the Red Stockings scored two in the top of the 11th, Brooklyn's fans thought the game over. But ironically, the Red Stockings choked the game away. Brainard faltered in the pitchers box and then an error by sure-handed Gould, who then threw wide to second base ended the game. The baseball world was shocked and the Red Stockings went home.
In Cincinnati, everyone was in mourning; fans, newspapers and investors, who pulled back their money with some claiming this was the end of professional baseball. There was no way to maintain professional baseball. Little did they know.