1876 Boston Red Caps
1876 Boston Red Caps / Franchise: Atlanta Braves / BR Team Page
Manager: Harry Wright
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1876 Boston Red Caps were the first edition of the Boston Base Ball Association to play in the National League, in the circuit's first season, after being the best club in the National Association for its five-year duration. The transition to the new league was not very successful at first, as they had their worst season to date, finishing in fourth place. The name "Boston Red Caps" was not historically used and did not have any official status; they were otherwise known as the Red Stockings or simply the Bostons.
On February 2, 1876, representatives from six baseball teams gathered at the Grand Central Hotel in New York City. It was here that the second major league, the National League, was born, striking a death blow to the struggling National Association, from which the clubs were defecting. The six clubs were the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, New York Mutuals, Chicago White Stockings and St. Louis Brown Stockings; except for Hartford, they represented the largest cities in the N.A. Team representatives William Hulbert from Chicago and Charles A. Fowle from St. Louis held the proxies for two clubs that were not present at the meeting: the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.
As far as Boston was concerned, there had been talk of expelling the four seceders, the four top-rank players who during the 1875 season had signed contracts to join the Chicago White Stockings in 1876, but there was no rule to prevent a player from signing with another team, at least for the following season. As Harold Kaese later put it in his history of the Boston Braves: "Except for the loss of the Four Seceders, there is little doubt that the Boston Club would have won seven pennants in succession, the last four in the National Association, and the first three in the National League. The transfer of the Seceders meant first place for Chicago in 1876, fourth place for Boston. Loyal Boston rooters would gladly have seen Hilbert's scalp blowing like a pennant from one of Sitting Bull's braves."
Boston’s season opened on April 22nd and unlike the first game of the National Association, which had been rained out, the Red Stockings played their season opener in Philadelphia with no rain interfering with the proceedings. The Red Stockings' line-up read as follow: George Wright at Shortstop; Andy Leonard at Second Base; Jim O'Rourke played Center Field; Tim Murnane at First Base; Harry Schafer at Third Base; Tim McGinley was the Catcher; Jack Manning played Right Field; Bill Parks played Left Field and Joe Borden was the Pitcher. Borden had been signed because of his performance against the Chicago White Stockings the previous year in which he threw a no-hit, no-run game. He was given a three-year contract for $2,000.00.
As had been the case in the first National Association game played by the Red Stockings, George Wright was the first batter in the first National League game. But unlike the game against the Washington Olympics, Wright did not get the first run. Jim O'Rourke was credited with the first hit, while Tim McGinley scored the first run as well as being the victim of the first strikeout. Jack Manning had the first Run Batted In (this would not become an official statistic until the next century), while Tim Murnane was credited with the first stolen base. Like the game against the Olympics, the Red Stockings rallied from two runs down in the 9th inning to win, 6-5. The Red Stockings’ first extra-inning game in the NL came on April 29th against Hartford, which was also the team’s home opener. They lost in the 10th inning by a score of 3-2. It was the 8th game to go into extra innings in franchise history, while it was Hartford’s seventh, as such games remained a rarity in what was still a high-scoring environment.
The Chicago White Stockings came to town for a series starting on May 30th. The White Stockings were in first place with a 12-3 record while the Red Stockings were tied for third with St. Louis at 9-6. A large crowd gathered to witness the White Stockings win, 5-1. Over the year, manager Harry Wright tinkered with the team trying to fill the void that the Seceders had left. Outfielder Bill Parks was let go after the first game. John Morrill was signed two days later. In mid-May catcher Tim McGinley was released. His spot was temporarily taken by Morrill until mid-June when Lew Brown was signed. Shortly after McGinley was released, infielder Frank Whitney was signed to play second base. In July, Joe Borden and former Athletics manager Dick McBride were both released. The last addition to the team was Foghorn Bradley who was signed in late August.
When the season ended, Boston was in fourth place with a 39-31 record. Of the eight teams that inaugural season, Boston was the only one that played all 70 games. This was because New York and Philadelphia refused to travel west on their last go-round near the end of the season due to financial difficulties. It should be noted that Hartford was only missing a game against New York, but had all of the games played against Philadelphia completed. In early December team president Nicholas Apollonio and manager Harry Wright traveled to Cleveland, OH for the league winter meetings which were held at the Kennard House Hotel.
During the meetings, a new board of directors was chosen, with former Red Stockings’ president Charles Porter being named to the board. League President Morgan Bulkeley, who was not present, was also named to the board. Bulkeley had submitted his resignation before the meetings began. When Bulkeley had been chosen as president, he accepted with the proviso that he would serve for only one year. With Bulkeley’s resignation accepted, Hulbert then nominated Apollonio to serve as league president. However, Apollonio declined the nomination on account of the fact that he was unsure of his position within the Red Stockings organization, and Hulbert, who was the main force in the organization anyway, took the position.
A Contested Meeting
On December 6th, the Boston Base Ball Association held its annual stockholders meeting. Frederick Long, the club treasurer chaired the meeting. Mr. Long told those in attendance that since there was not a quorum present, the only motion he could entertain was to adjourn. This was received with negative reactions, but since he was acting under the advice of counsel, Mr. Long declared the meeting adjourned for the foreseeable future and then retired from the room. The remaining members believed that there was a quorum of stock represented, and decided to organize a meeting anyway. They then proceeded to elect a board of directors and club officers.
But the question was, what exactly constituted a quorum? According to the by-laws, three stockholders constituted a quorum. At the time the whole number of shares that had been issued was 150, but only 72 of these had ever been paid in full. This was on account that rather than pay the last assessment, the holders had turned their certificates over to the association. In the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1872, the association found itself deep in debt, and as a result, the Boston Base Ball Club was formed to help the association get itself out of the red and into the black. These 72 shares were transferred to the treasurer on the provision that the club income should be paid to the association instead. The shares were then divided between the officers who acted as trustees and voted upon them in the meetings of the association.
In the afternoon meeting, the Boston Base Ball Club voted to dissolve and donate its 72 shares to the association, but when the Boston Base Ball Association met that evening, Mr. Long stated that the shares had not been transferred from the club to the association and could not be voted upon by the officers of the club. He also said that 76 of the 78 shares must be represented to constitute a quorum. The stockholders meetings which transacted on business voted on 77 shares, 42 out 78, and 35 out of 72 and threw out two votes, representing some half dozen shares, for a technical informality in voting. According to the bylaws the forfeited stock should be sold at an auction, but this was never done with the 72 shares that had previously been forfeited.
The question was then asked regarding whether the assessment which caused the forfeiture of the 72 shares had been legally made and whether the treasurer could legally divide the shares between the officers of the association. More importantly, who owned and who was the legal custodian of these shares. Long wanted this question settled once and for all. A conference was set up to make a final decision on all these matters, in the hope that this could be settled without resorting to the courts.
Because of the poor performance of the team the previous year, it was decided that Apollonio would not lead the team for the upcoming season. It did not help matters that revenue had dropped by 17% as well. Only the cutting of expenses would keep the team afloat for the next year. For the time being, former Red Stockings’ president Charles Porter would serve as interim president until new club officials could be chosen, something which took place in late December. It was this election that would change the look of the team, and that of baseball as well.
- Charles Bevis: Nicholas Apollonio
- Charles Bevis: Charles Porter
- Charles Bevis: "Arthur Soden: Baseball Owner & Capitalist with a Methodist Mission" Club President
- Michael Haupert: “1876 Winter Meetings: In the Face of Crisis”, Society for American Baseball Research
- Michael Haupert: “William Hulbert”, Society for American Baseball Research
- Harold Kaese: Boston Braves: 1871-1953, Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA 2004. ISBN 978-1555536176. Originally published in 1948.
- Albert Spalding: "Spalding's Official Baseball Guide" pg. 42, Reach and Johnston, Philadelphia, PA 1881.
- Boston Herald December 10, 1876