Monday, April 5, 2010

Please, try to get it right

One of the most persistent and annoying myths in baseball is that the Cincinnati Reds are the continuation of the mighty Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional club, that dominated base ball in 1869 and 1870 until their epic defeat at the hands of the Atlantic Club in Brooklyn.

Once again, this wholly inaccurate assertion has made its way into wide coverage. From an article on today by Mark Sheldon:

Inside Great American Ball Park, the crowd was a sea of the color red for both the Reds and, likely, the Cardinals, too. The Reds, whose franchise was founded in 1869, have the honor of opening at home every season.

Let's get it right, shall we? After the 1870 season, the Red Stockings' wealthy backers pulled the plug, and the team was disbanded. The club continued, fielding an amateur team as it had before 1868, for some unknown time. Some of the professionals, meanwhile, followed Harry Wright to Boston in 1871, where he formed a new Red Stockings club that still plays today. You may know them as the Atlanta Braves, and those of us with a more romantic view of the game's history like to regard them as the modern day Cincinnati Red Stockings. Certainly it's a defensible argument, that the old Red Stockings split into professional and amateur halves and continued as two clubs. The Chicago Cubs, who play the Braves today in a far more appropriate opening day celebration, formed in 1870 as the White Stockings, and have played continuously ever since apart from a brief break in the aftermath of the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati had a National League entry in 1876, which played five seasons before folding, largely in a dispute with the league over beer sales. The modern day Reds began life in the American Association in 1882, and jumped, along with the Brooklyn club you may know as the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the National League in 1890.

My colleague Andrew Ross suggests that perhaps the original NL club barnstormed a while before joining the AA. I find this difficult to believe, but as he says, the best you gain from that is an 1876 date for the modern club anyway. 1869? Earlier? Forget it.

However, I will accept the notion that the Reds' mascot is the continuation of Rollie Fingers.

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