The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Spring Time Means Baseball!

As the late-winter thaw creeps over New England, melting away the snow banks that dwarf the average person and New Englanders pray for no more snow until next December, we cannot help but look toward the one glimmer of hope of the coming spring: Red Sox spring training at Fort Myers, Florida. This week spring training is in full swing as the Red Sox face off against various teams, warming up for the 2011 baseball season. In honor of this treasured time of year I give a nod to the beginnings of one of America’s most loved pastimes: Baseball.

When this idea was first proposed, I was asked to scour our collections for anything related to baseball that we could use to connect to spring training. Just as I thought “What on earth do we have related to baseball here?” I received a phone call from a young woman who wished to view a carton from our Globe Newspaper Co. Records. As I checked the carton to make sure the materials were in order, what did I stumble upon but an 1872 baseball scrapbook assembled by none other than George Wright, one of the first men to play for the professional baseball club the Boston Red Stockings.

In 1869, George’s brother Harry Wright managed the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Two years later Harry moved east to manage the Boston Red Stockings. George, a talented shortstop and occasional second baseman, followed his brother from Cincinnati to Boston. He was team captain of four time association winners the Boston Red Stockings from 1871 to 1875. While in Boston, he kept a scrapbook of newspaper statistics and articles written about the professional baseball games played during the 1872 season. In 1920 he gave the scrapbook to the sports editor of the Globe Newspaper Co., Walter S. Barnes. According to a note found inside the scrapbook, the volume was rescued from a trash can in 1948 and placed in the company’s records.

Inside Wright’s scrapbook I found a two page layout of clippings from the New York Clipper analyzing each of the “Boston Nine” (a name given to the nine starters) including George Wright. These clippings demonstrate that in baseball some things will never change. Teams will always be on the lookout for a good captain to lead the team, for catchers who can actually catch their pitchers crazy pitches, for players who do not talk back to the umpires and cause a ruckus on the field, for pitchers who know how to outthink the batters, and for players who keep up their training through the offseason and enter the new season in tiptop shape (see image below), not arriving bloated and slow from too much alcohol, food, and other mischievous amusements.

detail of newspaper clipping from 1872 baseball season scrapbook

As the Red Sox players arrived in Fort Myers over the past few weeks, I found myself hoping that each arrived uninjured, ready to throw some balls, hit some home runs, and run like he has never run before. We New Englanders are counting on them to pull us out of these winter doldrums and into a season of sun, warmth, and wins.

To view the full image of Wright’s ‘Boston Nine’ described in clippings from the New York Clipper, click here.

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 2 March, 2011, 8:00 AM