Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Original Red Stockings

150 years ago yesterday, professional baseball was born.

On May 4, 1869, the Red Stockings of Cincinnati played the Great Westerns of Cincinnati and won, 45-9. That win set off a streak of 57 consecutive wins against clubs from the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). They finished the 1869 season on November 6 by beating the Mutuals of New York, thus becoming the only team to go undefeated a whole season.

That first club consisted of ten players (nine everyday players and one substitute) and so for this piece, I wanted to do a brief look at that original club to see how their career went in organized baseball. For purposes of this exercise, I'll consider "organized baseball" as beginning with the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (aka the National Association or NA) which began play in 1871.

Asa Brainard (P): Played for three different clubs (Washington Olympics, Middletown (CT) Mansfields, and Baltimore Canaries between 1871 and 1874. The top season he had was 1871 with Washington, which had several former Red Stockings players, where he had a 12-15 record over 30 games.

Doug Allison (C): Allison spent ten years in organized baseball playing multiple teams including the New York Mutuals, Hartford Dark Blues, and Providence Grays. The catcher for the 1869 team, he also played outfield and first base in his later seasons. However, the most notable thing that Allison contributed to the game was the use of a catching glove. Other catchers had used gloves on and off during the time but Allison had one of the earliest documented use of a gloves on June 28, 1870.

Charlie Gould (1B): The only Red Stockings player who was actually from Cincinnati, Gould played two seasons in Boston (1871, 1872) and then came back and played 1874 with Baltimore where he reunited with his old Red Stockings teammate Asa Brainerd, and then returned to Cincinnati for the 1876 and 1877 seasons. An interesting trivia note, Gould was the manager for the 1876 Reds, which was also the first season of the National League.

Charlie Sweasy (2B): Sweasy played here and there from 1871-1875, but joined the new Reds of the brand new National League in 1876 where he played second base under fellow Red Stockings player Charlie Gould. Sweasy and also played 55 games for the 1878 Providence Grays. After retiring, he worked various odd jobs selling oysters and working as a watchman.

George Wright (SS): One of only two Hall of Famers on the original squad, Wright played mainly in Boston and Providence from 1871-1882. In 1875, he amassed an astonishing 401 plate appearance with 408 at-bats with 61 RBIs. In 1876 and 1877, he led the majors in games played, plate appearance, and at-bats. In 1879, he managed the Providence Grays to the National League pennant with a 59-25 record.

Fred Waterman (3B): The person who manned the hot corner for the Red Stockings, appeared in only 61 games in organized baseball over parts of four seasons. His best season was probably the 1871 season where he hit .316 and was fifth in the league in runs scored. In the field, he was also stellar finishing second in both putouts and assists. According to his SABR biography, very little is known about Waterman outside of baseball and he supposedly worked odd jobs around Cincinnati after his career was over. 

Andy Leonard (LF): Leonard will go down in history as the first Irish-born professional baseball player. During that historic 1869 season, he accomplished a feat that will never be matched in modern baseball, that being hitting for the cycle in one inning. He joined a number of fellow Red Stockings teammates on the 1871 Washington squad and then spent the remainder of his professional career with Boston in both the National Association and the National League. He tried a comeback to the Reds in 1880 but retired in the middle of that campaign. 

Harry Wright (CF/Mgr): The other Hall of Famer on the 1869 team, Wright was the man who, along with team president Aaron Champion, put the team together. Wright was not only the centerfielder for the club but was also the manager. After the club disbanded after the 1870 season, Wright set up shop in Boston with a new Red Stockings club. Between 1871 and 1875, the Boston team won every National Association pennant except for the inaugural pennant. He also captained the 1877 and 1878 Boston team to the NL Pennant. Wright managed the Providence Grays for two seasons and the Phillies (aka Quakers) for 10 seasons.

Cal McVey (RF): The youngest member of the Red Stockings, McVey was only 18 when he suited up for the club on that historic day. He followed Harry Wright to Boston when the National Association began play in 1871 and played for them four out of the next five seasons, with a brief detour to Baltimore in between. In 1876, when the National League replaced the National Association, McVey joined the White Stockings in Chicago and spent the next two seasons there before spending his final two seasons with the Reds. He played minor league ball in California for a number of seasons after and was a honored guest of the Reds as part of the 1919 World Series.

Dick Hurley (Sub): Before his involvement with the Red Stockings, Hurley played on the Buckeyes of Cincinnati amateur team, which was one of the top teams in the Midwest. Harry Wright recruited him to be the substitute player for the Red Stockings at $600 per season. After the Red Stockings dissolved, Hurley's only appearances in organized baseball were the first two games of the 1872 season for the Washington Olympics where he went 0 for 7.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the original Cincinnati Red Stockings team. I certainly enjoyed looking them up. I knew of some of the players but most of them I didn't. I can definitely say I learned something new as well.

Research credit: Baseball Reference, SABR Bio Project, Wikipedia


  1. Happy belated birthday MLB!

  2. Great post! Thank you for providing the interesting information on the players.

  3. Awesome! Such a different sport back then!