Friday, May 26, 2017

The Wright Brothers-Part II

Around these parts, there are two sets of Wright Brothers. The first were Reds founders, Harry and George Wright. The others were from a little further north in Dayton, Ohio. Bicycle shop owners, Wilbur and Orville Wright, of the Gem City, also created history with their "flying machine" after the turn of the century in 1903.

While this is a baseball blog, I wanted to slip this in as an aside. Mostly for the battle between the states of Ohio and North Carolina for "ownership" of the Wright Brothers. The Wright's exploits are well documented but I thought it was funny how these two states have battled over the years to claim credit for these famous flyers.

In 1984 North Carolina started producing license plates with the phrase "First in Flight" with a silhouette of the 1903 Flyer airplane. This design commemorated the Wright's first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC with this basic theme continuing on their license plates through today.

Back in Ohio, the birthplace of the Wright brothers, they began producing plates with the phrase "Birthplace of Aviation" in 1996. This too continues to the present day which includes three of four distinct plate designs. Lunar Astronaut Neil Armstrong was from Wapakoneta Ohio and is included in this statement as well.

In 1999 the United State Treasury began producing quarters to commemorate the statehood of all 50 US States. The feud over the Wrights even spilled over into that program with both states reprising the idea on their state quarters. The back of the North Carolina quarter says "First Flight" with a rendering of that historic moment. Meanwhile the Ohio quarter says "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers" with the 1903 Flyer and Neil Armstrong shown over top of an outline of the state.

While this "battle" has gone on for over thirty years, a newcomer has joined the fray. In 2013, folks in Connecticut claim that a German immigrant named Gustave Whitehead made the true first flight in Bridgeport, Connecticut, more than two years earlier.

I haven't spent any time researching the outcome of these claims but there is one thing for sure. The Wright Brothers were born in Ohio and made their historic flight in North Carolina. It's kinda like the Christopher Columbus debate. At this stage of the game does it really matter.

1984 North Carolina license plate
1996 Ohio license plate
2010 Ohio license plate
2001 North Carolina state quarter and 2002 Ohio state quarter

The Wright Brothers-Part I

After the Civil War, many of the returning vets brought the game of Baseball back to their cities, towns and boroughs. In the following years, the popularity and fondness for the game grew. Here in Cincinnati, Ohio, The Cincinnati Baseball Club was formed in 1866 and played in the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) League from 1867 to 1870.

The club was started by a group that included easterner Harry Wright, a native of Scotland, and his younger brother George Wright. They would eventually be known as the Red Stockings from the red hosiery they wore during their games. It was a similar style that the elder Wright borrowed from his time spent with the Knickerbockers of New York City.

 1975 Fleer Pioneers of Baseball, #2 Harry Wright 

Any discussion of baseball in Cincinnati or the sport in general must include the Cincinnati Red Stockings. To overlook this team and its impact on the sport skips past an important part of American History. The country was expanding after the war and the game of Baseball helped heal old wounds and was a bridge between the two coasts.

Professional players dotted the lineups of many teams after the Civil War but in 1869 Harry Wright made the bold move by fielding the first all-professional team of ten players. The Cincinnati Red Stockings, would take the field on May 4, 1869 at the Union Grounds, site of the present day Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, in the West End of Cincinnati. They would make history that day as the first starting team of nine all professional players. They completed a 45-9 win over the Great Westerns of Cincinnati that afternoon.

Mosaic Wall Art of the First Nine at Great American Ball Park (GABP) in Cincinnati (2003)

During the 1869 season, the Red Stockings would go undefeated with a 65-0 record by defeating teams from all over America. They would later be nicknamed the "First Nine" to signify their status as the first all professional lineup.

"First Nine of the Cincinnati Red Stockings" lithograph from 1869

The team would reel off another streak of nearly 20 straight wins in 1870 but lost its first game on June 14, 1870 to the Brooklyn Atlantics. After winning a combined 84 straight games since their start in 1869 they would finish the 1870 season with a 27-6-1 record.

Whether it was complacency or boredom with the constant winning, attendance would continue to dwindle during the 1870 season. Coupled with the expense of paying the ten professionals, the club decided not to field a team in 1871.

Wright was then hired by a group in Boston to start a professional team. He would take several teammates with him including his brother George. The Boston Red Stockings would begin play in the first professional league in 1871. This team would later be called the Boston Braves and are the same franchise that resides in Atlanta today after a stop in Milwaukee. Harry Wright would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 for his contributions to the early pro game in Cincinnati and as a manager there and in Boston, while his brother George was inducted in 1937 for his success as a player throughout his career.

 1977 Bob Parker Baseball HOF “Cartoon Card”, #53 George Wright

In 1901 a new team would be founded in Boston as part of the original eight teams of the American League. Around 1908 this club revived the old team name of Red Stockings and changed it slightly into the Red Sox. In 1975 the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox would meet in one of the most dramatic World Series in baseball history.

Back in Cincinnati, professional baseball would not appear until 1876 when a new version of the Red Stockings was formed. Sadly this team finished with a 9-56 record and finished last in the newly created eight team National League. However for Cincinnati and baseball in general, this season would mark the beginning of a permanent franchise in Cincinnati up to the present day.

Baseball and Cincinnati are synonymous around this area. It is a part of the fabric of the community and provides an identity for those of us native or living in the southwest Ohio area. The fan base draws from surrounding states of Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.

For many years Cincinnati was granted the first game of the new baseball season to commemorate their status at the first professional team. Unfortunately Opening Day isn't the national event it was in the past due to media giants like ESPN and Fox Sports. However the annual Opening Day parade is something that has endured since 1920 and is one of the iconic annual events for the city.

As the song goes, "Hooray for the Cincinnati Reds, the first team in the history of base ball"...

1970 Topps, #507 Pat Corrales showing 1969 Commemorative Patch of 100 Years of Professional Baseball

1969 100th Anniversary of Professional Baseball Patch

1995 Topps, #350 Barry Larkin showing 1994 Commemorative Patch of 125 Years of Professional Baseball and 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

1994 125th Anniversary of Professional Baseball Patch

1994 125th Anniversary of the Cincinnati Red Stockings Patch.  It is the same photo from the 1869 Peck & Snyder (Sporting Goods) card which is regarded as the first baseball card.

1977 Topps, #350 Pete Rose showing 1976 Commemorative Patch of 100 Year Anniversary of the National League

1976 National League Centennial Patch

Pete Rose in the on-deck circle at Crosley Field in 1969 marking the 100th Anniversary of the Cincinnati Reds (Red Stockings)

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's Opening Day! Play Blog!

So here goes...after following and for a while I have resurrected an old blog name I stashed away a few years ago called "The Big Red Machine".

My original intent was to show the creation and development of what would be the Cincinnati Reds baseball dynasty of the 1970's using period baseball cards and related memorabilia starting in the early 1960's. Since then I have marveled at the musings of Joe Schlabotnik, GioB and a few others and will expand my scope to include tidbits of Cincinnati Baseball history, local players and other tie-ins.

I will also include occasional observations on topps period products and my own commentary on some favorite cards, players and memories from my collecting days in the 1970's and 80's.

I look forward to sharing my perspective on these cardboard collectibles that consumed my imagination so long ago.

1970 Topps Cincinnati Reds Team card (#544)