Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Perpetuating the myth

The above is a screen grab from Yahoo! which shows a breathtaking ignorance of baseball history. I shouldn't be surprised. For what it's worth: the present day Cincinnati Reds can be traced to the 1882 Cincy squad, which was the first champion of the American Association. The club jumped to the National League in 1890, and has remained there ever since.

An earlier National League Cincinnati franchise was formed in 1876, and lasted until 1880, when they were kicked out of the league for selling beer on Sundays. There is no relationship between these two clubs.

On the other hand, the original all-professional base ball club was the Cincinnati Red Stocking Club of 1868. The club itself was formed in 1866, but the importing of players with paid contracts began in 1868, when Harry Wright recruited a team in earnest. By 1869, the club was by far the best in the country, but never got to play for the NAABP championship - at the time you became champion by beating the incumbent, and the quirks of the Cincinnati schedule denied them a shot. In 1870, after an 89 game winning streak, the Red Stockings finally lost to the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, in an eleven inning epic at the Capitoline Grounds. The aura of invincibility gone, crowds dwindled and the money dried up. The club's executives decided not to field a nine for 1871 in the new professional National Association, and the team was disbanded, although an amateur nine carried on in its stead.

If you must identify a modern club as the oldest professional club, either try the Cubs, which can be directly traced back to the Chicago White Stockings of 1870, or the Atlanta Braves. When the Red Stockings were disbanded, Harry Wright was hired to captain a new franchise in Boston. He brought many of his Cincinnati players along, and the new team was dubbed the Red Stockings. They became the Boston Braves, and moved to Milwaukee in 1953, then Atlanta in 1966. Romantics among us like to think that the franchise, in some sense, moved along with Harry Wright.

One thing is certain, though: the modern day Reds are absolutely not the oldest professional baseball team.

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