Albert Spalding

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Albert Goodwill Spalding
Spalding the businessman at 59, 1910
Born: September 2, 1849
Byron, Illinois
Died: September 9, 1915(1915-09-09) (aged 66)
San Diego, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 5, 1871, for the Boston Red Stockings
Last MLB appearance
August 31, 1878, for the Chicago White Stockings
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 252–65
Earned run average 2.14
Strikeouts 248
Batting average .313
Hits 613
Runs batted in 338
  National Association of Base Ball Players
Rockford Forest Citys (18661870)
  League Player
Boston Red Stockings (18711875)
Chicago White Stockings (18761878)
  League Manager
Chicago White Stockings (18761877)
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Inducted 1939
Election Method Veteran's Committee

Albert Goodwill Spalding (September 2, 1849 – September 9, 1915) was an American pitcher, manager and executive in the early years of professional baseball, and the co-founder of A.G. Spalding sporting goods company. He played major league baseball between 1871 and 1878. A popular myth is that Spalding became the first well-known player to use a fielding glove in 1877 because such gloves were among the items sold at his sporting goods store. Field gloves were regularly used in the mid 1870s [1]

After his retirement as a player, Spalding remained active with the Chicago White Stockings as president and part-owner. In the 1880s, he took players on the first world tour of baseball. With William Hulbert, Spalding organized the National League. He later called for the commission that investigated the origins of baseball and credited Abner Doubleday with creating the game. He also wrote the first set of official baseball rules.

Baseball career


Having played baseball throughout his youth, Spalding first played competitively with the Rockford Pioneers, a youth team, which he joined in 1865. After pitching his team to a 26–2 victory over a local men's amateur team (the Mercantiles), he was approached at the age of 15 by another, the Forest Citys, for whom he played for two years.[2] In the autumn of 1867 he accepted a $40 per week contract, nominally as a clerk, but really to play professionally for the Chicago Excelsiors, not an uncommon arrangement used to circumvent the rules of the time, which forbade the hiring of professional players. Following the formation of baseball's first professional organization, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (which became known as the National Association, the Association, or NA) in 1871, Spalding joined the Boston Red Stockings (precursor club to the modern Atlanta Braves) and was highly successful; winning 206 games (and losing only 53) as a pitcher and batting .323 as a hitter.

William Hulbert, principal owner of the Chicago White Stockings, did not like the loose organization of the National Association and the gambling element that influenced it, so he decided to create a new organization, which he dubbed the National League of Baseball Clubs. To aid him in this venture, Hulbert enlisted the help of Spalding. Playing to the pitcher's desire to return to his Midwestern roots and challenging Spalding's integrity, Hulbert convinced Spalding to sign a contract to play for the White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs) in 1876. Spalding then coaxed teammates Deacon White, Ross Barnes and Cal McVey, as well as Philadelphia Athletics players Cap Anson and Bob Addy, to sign with Chicago. This was all done under complete secrecy during the playing season because players were all free agents in those days and they did not want their current club and especially the fans to know they were leaving to play elsewhere the next year. News of the signings by the Boston and Philadelphia players leaked to the press before the season ended and all of them faced verbal abuse and physical threats from the fans of those cities.

He was "the premier pitcher of the 1870s", leading the league in victories for each of his six full seasons as a professional.[3] During each of those years he was his team's only pitcher.[4] In 1876, Spalding won 47 games as the prime pitcher for the White Stockings and led them to win the first-ever National League pennant by a wide margin.[3]

In 1877, Spalding began to use a glove to protect his catching hand. People had used gloves previously, but never had a star like Spalding used one. Spalding had an ulterior motive for doing so: he now owned a sporting goods store which sold baseball gloves and wearing one himself was good advertising for his business.

Spalding retired from playing baseball in 1878 at the age of 27, although he continued as president and part owner of the White Stockings and a major influence on the National League. Spalding's .796 career winning percentage (from an era when teams played about once or twice a week) is the highest ever achieved by a baseball pitcher.

Organizer and executive

In the months after signing for Chicago, Hulbert and Spalding organized the National League by enlisting the four major teams in the East and the three other top teams in what was then considered to be the West. Joining Chicago initially were the leading teams from Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. The owners of these western clubs accompanied Hulbert and Spalding to New York where they secretly met with owners from New York City, Philadelphia, Hartford, and Boston. Each signed the league's constitution, and the National League was officially born. "Spalding was thus involved in the transformation of baseball from a game of gentlemen athletes into a business and a professional sport."[2] Although the National Association held on for a few more seasons, it was no longer recognized as the premier organization for professional baseball. Gradually, it faded out of existence and was replaced by myriad minor leagues and associations around the country.

In 1905, after Henry Chadwick wrote an article saying that baseball grew from the British sports of cricket and rounders, Spalding called for a commission to find out the real source of baseball. The commission called for citizens who knew anything about the founding of baseball to send in letters. After three years of searching, on December 30, 1907, Spalding received a letter that (erroneously) declared baseball to be the invention of Abner Doubleday. The commission, though, was biased, as Spalding would not appoint anyone to the commission if they believed the sport was somewhat related to the English sport of rounders. Just before the commission, in a letter to sportswriter Tim Murnane, Spalding noted, "Our good old American game of baseball must have an American Dad." The project, later called the Mills Commission, concluded that "Base Ball had its origins in the United States" and "the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence available to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839."

Receiving the archives of Henry Chadwick in 1908, Spalding combined these records with his own memories (and biases) to write "America's National Game" (published 1911) which, despite its flaws, was probably the first scholarly account of the history of baseball.[4]


In 1874 while Spalding was playing and organizing the league, Spalding and his brother Walter began a sporting goods store in Chicago, which grew rapidly (14 stores by 1901) and expanded into a manufacturer and distributor of all kinds of sporting equipment. The company became "synonymous with sporting goods"[2] and is still a going concern.

Spalding published the first official rules guide for baseball. In it he stated that only Spalding balls could be used (previously, the quality of the balls used had been subpar). Spalding also founded the "Baseball Guide", which at the time was the most widely read baseball publication.

In 1888–1889, Spalding took a group of major league players around the world to promote baseball and Spalding sporting goods. This was the first-ever world baseball tour.[3] Playing across the western U.S., the tour made stops in Hawaii (although no game was played), New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France, and England. The tour returned to grand receptions in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The tour included future Hall of Famers Cap Anson and John Montgomery Ward. While the players were on the tour, the National League instituted new rules regarding player pay that led to a revolt of players, led by Ward, who started the Players' League the following season (1890). The league lasted one year, partially due to the anti-competitive tactics of Spalding to limit its success. The tour and formation of the Player's League is depicted in the 2015 movie "Deadball."[5]

In 1900 Spalding was appointed by President McKinley as the USA's Commissioner at that year's Summer Olympic Games.[4]

Other activities

Spalding had been a prominent member of the Theosophical Society under William Quan Judge. In 1900, Spalding moved to San Diego with his newly acquired second wife, Elizabeth[2] and became a prominent member and supporter of the Theosophical community Lomaland, which was being developed on Point Loma by Katherine Tingley. He built an estate in the Sunset Cliffs area of Point Loma where he lived with Elizabeth for the rest of his life. The Spaldings raised race horses and collected Chinese fine furniture and art.

The Spaldings had an extensive library which included many volumes on Theosophy, art, and literature. In 1907–09 he was the driving force behind the development of a paved road, known as the "Point Loma boulevard", from downtown San Diego to Point Loma and Ocean Beach; the road also provided good access to Lomaland. It later provided the basis for California State Route 209.[6] He proposed the project, supervised it on behalf of the city, and paid a portion of the cost out of his own pocket. He joined with George Marston and other civic-minded businessmen to purchase the site of the original Presidio of San Diego, which they developed as a historic park and eventually donated to the city of San Diego.[7] He ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate in 1910.[7] He helped to organize the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, serving as second vice-president.[8]


He died on September 9, 1915 in San Diego, and his ashes were scattered at his request.[9][10]


He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1939, as one of the first inductees from the 19th century at that summer's opening ceremonies. His plaque in the Hall of Fame reads "Albert Goodwill Spalding. Organizational genius of baseball's pioneer days. Star pitcher of Forest City Club in late 1860s, 4-year champion Bostons 1871–75 and manager-pitcher of champion Chicagos in National League's first year. Chicago president for 10 years. Organizer of baseball's first round-the-world tour in 1888."[3]

His nephew, also named Albert Spalding, was a renowned violinist.

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Starr, Raymond (Winter 1986). "Book review: A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball". Journal of San Diego History. 32 (1).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Spalding, Al". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 19 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Albert G. Spalding". Who Made America?. PBS. Retrieved 19 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Staff (April 23, 1909). "Street Work Pay is Puzzle". The San Diego Union and Daily Bee. p. 8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Epstein, Michael J. (Summer–Fall 2004). "George White Marston: Baseball Player" (PDF). Journal of San Diego History. 50 (3–4): 93.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, 1915–1916". San Diego History Center. Retrieved 19 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Al Spalding's career statistics". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved 25 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Al Spalding's career statistics". Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Lamster, Mark (2006). Spalding's World Tour. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1-58648-311-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Levine, Peter (1985). A.G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503552-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Business positions
New title Owner of the Chicago Cubs
Succeeded by
Jim Hart