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1872.4 Harry Wright Offers Game, Players, to Harvard




Base Ball

Age of Players:


Letter from Harry Wright, of the second-year Boston pro league club, to a representative of the Harvard club, March 18, 1872:

". . . would it be agreeable to play . . . Saturday April 6th . . . upon our grounds . . .

We propose having our first game played on Fast Day, weather permitting

Harry Wright, Secy"


 From the Spalding Collection at the New York Public Library

Richard Hershberger, 3/18/2022
"150 years ago today in baseball: Harry Wright is making arrangements with the Harvard ball team. If I am reading it correctly, the secretary of the Harvard club goes by "J. Cheever Goodwin." I hate him already. Wright proposes a date just two and a half weeks out. This is typical of scheduling in this era, done on the fly. It also was a major pain. A lot of Wright's correspondence consists of back and forth to find a date that works for both sides.
I'm not sure what is the story about the offer to let Harvard use the Boston grounds. Harvard had a field, but I don't know if it was enclosed at this period. You can't charge admission if there is no fence. This would explain the discussion here, where we can assume that the "satisfactory arrangements" he mentions is a discreet way to say "financial arrangements," with the Boston club getting a piece of the action.
Then there is the discussion of the Fast Day game. Fast Day is an obsolete New England holiday: a quasi-pagan fertility ritual where people were supposed to go to church and look solemn in order to ensure a good harvest. In practice they went to ball games. It was the traditional opening of the baseball season. This year it will be on April 4. Wright is arranging the "picked nine" the Bostons will trounce. Sometimes a picked nine was an impromptu affair, picking players from the crowd. This one is a bit more organized, with the players chosen ahead of time and publicized. Wright is offering three slots to Harvard. He doesn't specify which positions. This picked nine is not totally random, but neither is it totally organized."
Joanne Hulbert, FB posting, 3/18/2022:
"Yes, Richard, Fast Day was made obsolete by baseball. But who wants to eliminate a holiday off the annual schedule? No one. This is how Patriots Day, April 19 was added to replace Fast Day - and Patriot's Day is still to this day an important baseball day in Boston. It is the one day in Boston when there is always a Red Sox home game on the schedule."
Richard replied, 3/18/2022:
"My take is that Fast Day was made obsolete by New England's cultural shift, from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to Walden Pond. But the point about Patriot's Day is entirely fair."
Bruce Allardice added, 3-19-2022:
"It was common for pro league teams to play amateur clubs, especially early in the year. The 1876 Chicago White Stockings played 2 local amateur clubs before their regular season started, as sort of a warm-up. They also played 30+ amateur, semi-pro and non-league pro clubs during the year.
 The [Boston club] played the Tufts College club 4-24-72, winning 43-5 (Boston Herald 4-25-72). 
The April 4th game was played, against a 'picked nine' of local amateurs that included several from the Harvard team. The Red Sox won 32-0. (Boston Journal, 4-5-72). The amateurs made only 3 hits off Spalding's pitching."


Asking, 3/18/2022:

Was it common for pro league clubs to play amateur clubs?  (see BA response, above)

Did the game come off?

Asking, 3/19/2022:

Was the Boston club known as the Red Stockings in 1872?


Was the proposed game to amount to a pre-season warmup for the Boston pros?

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