140 years ago today (May 4, 1869), the Cincinnati Red Stockings defeated Cincinnati’s Great Westerns, 45-9, to open the season for baseball’s first openly acknowledged professional base ball team.
The Red Stockings were apparently without problems scoring runs, easily surpassing the current Reds’ average of four runs per game, and even slashed their way to three homers, all of the inside-the-park variety. George Wright, Andy Leonard, and 18 year old Cal McVey all homered for the team that donned red stockings. HAVOC existed, and was the rule of the day, in 1869.
As many of you may have already surmised, there were paid base-ball players before the Red Stockings. Paid players weren’t always “smiled upon” since it was an amateur sport. The Red Stockings were taking the high road in making it public and began their whirlwind tour. You may wonder how they found other “professional” teams to play…some were professional, some were not. Baseball in the eastern United States was considered to be of a higher level, so the Red Stockings went about their business of demonstrating the best baseball of the day was being played in Cincinnati.
As for the home runs…all home runs were inside the park since fences did not exist, and there was very little defense. Havoc ruled the day.
The first Red Stockings team finished their season 57-0. They outscored their opponents, 2396-574. Their star was shortstop George Wright, who batted .633 with 49 home runs and 339 runs scored. The 1870 Red Stockings finished 67-6-1.
Unfortunately, since the Red Stockings had the audacity to actually lose a game in 1870, they lost both public support and financial support from some of their sponsors (things haven’t changed much). After making a profit of $1.39 for the 1869 season, they disbanded after the 1870 season. A quote from the team management: “You can’t run the club on glory.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same….
Information taken from “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder.