1871 Boston Red Stockings

From BR Bullpen

1871 Boston Red Stockings / Franchise: Boston Red Stockings / BR Team Page[edit]

  • Record: 20-10-1 (.661); RS: 401; RA: 303; Diff: 98; Pts: 41; >.500: 10-6; Finished 1.5 games back for 3rd in National Association

History, Comments, Contributions[edit]

The 1871 Boston Red Stockings were the first edition of what is now the Atlanta Braves; they were one of the founding members of the National Association.

The Red Stockings were a team full of famous baseball pioneers, many of them having come over from the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first-ever professional club, to form the new Boston entity. Harry Wright at age 36 was a decade older than anyone else on the team except Dave Birdsall. Wright both managed the team and played center field, as well as serving as a backup pitcher. His younger brother George Wright, appearing in 16 games for the team (about half the games), had the second highest batting average at .413 and the highest slugging percentage at .625. The highest batting average belonged to Cal McVey, one of the decade's great hitters, who hit .431 at age 21. Ross Barnes, also 21, would go on to win three batting championships in the 1870s. Birdsall, at age 32, had been famous as a catcher in the amateur days of the 1860s, but played outfield in 1871, his only full season in the National Association. The regular pitcher was Al Spalding, who would be the dominant pitcher of the decade and later the founder the Spalding sporting goods business. Spalding, who was only 20 in 1871, would go on to win as many as 55 games in 1875. Of course, he could not win nearly as many in 1871 because the team only played 31 games.

The team practiced for three weeks at the Tremont Gymnasium before its first game against a "Picked Nine" club on Fast Day, April 6th. The Picked Nine was made up of players from the Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club, the Lowells and Harvard College. The Red Stockings won, 41-10, but several of the Picked Nine's runs came as a result of Red Stockings errors. While the game may have been a means to see how the team would operate as well as correcting and fine-tuning mistakes, it was a sign of things to come for the up-coming season. The team's next game came on April 8th and was a win against the Lowells. Boston then travelled to Washington, DC in early May for a game against the Olympics on May 4th, but the game was rained out. Had the game been played as scheduled, it would have been the First game in major league history; instead, a game played across the country in Fort Wayne, IN between the host Kekiongas and the Cleveland Forest Citys claimed that honor. The game was made up the next day with the Red Stockings rallying to defeat the Olympics, 20-18. The next exhibition game came on May 8th, a 25-0 win over the Brooklyn Atlantics at Capitoline Grounds, the site where the Cincinnati Red Stockings had suffered their first loss as a professional team the previous June.

On May 9th, the team then travelled to Troy, NY to take on the Haymakers. The Red Stockings won the game, 9-5, but lost George Wright to a leg injury when he collided with Fred Cone when both tried to get a fly ball. This happened when Cone failed to hear Wright yell for possession of the ball due to a passing train that was blowing its whistle at the time. Wright would be out for more than a month. A week later, on May 16th, the team was at its home park to officially open the season at home. 2,500 fans were on hand to watch the hometown team play the Haymakers. The game began at 3:30 with the Red Stockings batting first as Wright lost the coin toss. Spalding pitched for the home team, while John McMullin, who had lost the first meeting between them, pitched for the visitors. The Red Stockings led until the 4th inning when Troy took the lead at 11-7, and they held on to win 29-14. As with the match against the Picked Nine, sloppy play contributed to the Haymakers' scoring. It would be the only time that season that the team would give up 20+ runs. Boston would got its first home win on May 20th by a score of 11-8 over the Philadelphia Athletics.

George Wright returned on June 17th, the team at this point was in the midst of what would become a three-game losing streak. The streak ended four days later in a 21-0 shutout of the Kekiongas and was Spalding's only shutout of the season. This was not the only time that Boston had a three-game losing streak in the National Association, as it would experience another one in 1874, but at that time the team was in first place and on its way to winning a third pennant, so circumstances were quite different. Boston then began a long road trip, starting with a 20-8 loss to the Athletics on June 26th. This marked the last time the team would be in sixth place. In early July, the Red Stockings took a slight detour to [[[Cincinnati, OH]]. Along with the Washington Olympics, the two teams were invited to play a baseball game at Union Grounds on July 4th. The game was preceded by an exhibition game on July 3rd, in which the old Cincinnati Red Stockings players reunited and played against a Picked Nine club made up of Olympics and Red Stockings players. Of the old Red Stockings players, only George Wright did not participate, but former Cincinnati Red Stockings substitute Harry Deane, now with the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, took Wright's place. The old Red Stockings lost to the Picked Nine, 15-13. According to the New York Clipper, George Wright's absence was felt and it also noted Charlie Sweasy's ineffective batting and immobile play in the field. When the game started the next day at 3:30, 5,000 spectators showed up to watch the Red Stockings take on the Blue Stockings (as the Olympics were also known). This time, Harry Wright's Red Stockings won the game, 7-3. The game showed that Cincinnati fans were still willing to watch a baseball game, professional or not. According to today's rules, the Red Stockings moved into third place on August 3rd and remained there for the rest of the season. But according to the rules governing standings in effect in 1871, they would not move into third place until August 8th.

During the season, on at least two separate occasions, the Red Stockings played a ball game with a Ryan ball, which is a red elastic ball. The first occasion came against the Athletics on August 7th, which saw the Red Stockings win by a score of 23-7. The second came later in the month on August 22nd was against the New York Mutuals. Boston lost the match, 15-11. While it was customary for both home clubs (i.e. Philadelphia and New York) to furnish the ball for the game, both clubs allowed Harry Wright to select the ball.

On August 29th, Fort Wayne became the first team to fail to complete its season. The Kekiongas, who were a cooperative club, relied entirely on gate receipts as opposed to players being paid an actual salary. Because of this, the team had a lot of financial difficulties and was not able be as competitive as many of the other salary-based teams. Their spot in the league was taken over by the Brooklyn Eckfords, but that team was not officially included in the standings as they had not officially joined the league. Rockford became the second team not to finish the season following its 16-8 loss to Cleveland on September 15th. The Great Chicago Fire, which took place from October 8-10, nearly forced the Chicago White Stockings to drop out as well, but the team managed to complete the season on October 30th by playing only road games, and compiled a 19-9 record. This was accomplished with players wearing an odd assortment of baseball uniforms from various baseball teams, given that the team's records and possessions had all burned down in the conflagration. For the Red Stockings their season had ended on October 7th, with the team in third place.

The fall league meeting took place on Friday, November 3rd at the Girard House in Philadelphia, PA. The Red Stockings' President, Ivers W. Adams, represented the team at the meeting while Harry Wright represented Fort Wayne. As a result of the meeting, a committee decided on November 18th that the Athletics were the winners of the inaugural pennant. There was also talk of Boston and Philadelphia taking a trip to England the following year, but nothing would come of it.

On December 7th the Boston Baseball Association held its annual meeting. After hearing the treasury report, the meeting adjourned without any future date being designated for a follow-up meeting. Immediately following this, President Adams called the meeting to order again. Adams announced that the state legislature had passed a bill signed by Governor William Clafin, allowing for the Association to officially incorporate as a business. Harry Wright was selected as clerk pro tempore, while Adams was chosen as chairman. Once this was accepted, a committee was appointed to draw up a code of by-laws, which were then reported and duly accepted. Adams was unanimously re-elected as club president, but he declined to continue for another season, and instead decided to focus on his business interests. He was then thanked for his services and the stockholders elected the directors and club officers for the following year: John A. Conkey (President); John P. Reed; Charles A. Burditt (Treasurer); George Homer; and Harry Wright (Secretary).


Stat Team League Rank
Batting .310 .287 2nd
On Base Percentage .339 .312 2nd
Slugging .422 .384 2nd
Home Run 3 5 6th
ERA 3.55 4.22 2nd
Fielding .834 .833 5th

Boston Red Stockings Uniform: 1871

Further Reading[edit]

  • Matthew Baker, Thomas J. Miceli and William J. Ryczek: The Old Ball Game: Organization of the Nineteenth Century Professional Base Ball Clubs, University of Connecticut, 2002.
  • Charlie Bevis: "Ivers W. Adams", in Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Boston's First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 192-194. ISBN 978-1-943816-29-3.
  • Christopher Devine: Harry Wright: The Father of Professional Base Ball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003, pp 85-86.
  • Richard Hershberger: "1871 Winter Meetings: The Winter of Three National Associations" 1871
  • Charles Horning: "Maker Spotlight: The History of Wright & Ditson", Nov. 24, 2015 Wright-Ditson
  • Harold Kaese: Boston Braves: 1871-1953, Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA, 2004. ISBN 978-1555536176. Originally published in 1948.
  • Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Boston's First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016. ISBN 978-1-943816-29-3
  • Bob LeMoine: "The 1871 Season", in Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Boston's First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 30-34. ISBN 978-1-943816-29-3
  • Bob LeMoine: "Boston Braves team ownership history", SABR [1]

Newspaper Clippings[edit]

  • Richard Hershberger: 1871 Newspapers
  • New York Clipper: "Talk of a Europe trip" Nov. 11, 1871
  • New York Sunday Mercury: "Spring gymnasium training; the Red Stockings' living arrangements", April 2, 1871
  • New York Sunday Mercury: "Early talk of an England tour", Nov. 19, 1871
  • Philadelphia Sunday Mercury: "Harry Wright chooses an elastic ball; usually the home club provides the ball", August 13, 1871; August 27, 1871
  • Philadelphia Sunday Mercury: "the reorganization of the Boston club" Dec. 17, 1871