Albert Spalding

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Albert Spalding : biography

September 2, 1850 – September 9, 1915

Meanwhile, Spalding and his brother began a sporting goods store in Chicago. 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. Of course, Spalding had an ulterior motive for doing so. He and his brother sold baseball gloves, and wearing one himself was good for business.

In 1876, Spalding won 47 games as the prime pitcher for the Chicago White Stockings, who captured the National League’s inaugural pennant by a wide margin.

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. Spalding retired from playing baseball in 1878, although he continued as a major force as owner of the White Stockings and 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.

In 1888–1889, Spalding took a group of major league players around the world to promote baseball and Spalding sporting goods. 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.

Spalding’s store grew rapidly over the next 25 years, with 14 stores by 1901, expanded from retail into manufacturing baseball equipment and is still a going concern. In 1900 Spalding was appointed by President McKinley as the USA’s Commissioner at that year’s Summer Olympic Games. 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.