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William Henry "Harry" Wright (January 10, 1835 – October 3, 1895) was an Englishmarker-born Americanmarker professional baseball player, manager, and developer. He assembled, managed, and played center field for baseball's first fully professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. There he is credited with introduction of backing up plays in the outfield and shifting defensive alignments based on hitters' tendencies. He is in the Baseball Hall of Famemarker classified as a manager, a role that he virtually defined.

Born in Sheffield, Englandmarker, the first son of professional cricketer Samuel Wright, "Harry" was not yet three when the family emigrated to the U.S. for a job as bowler, coach, and groundskeeper at the St George's Cricket Club in New York. Both Harry and George, twelve years younger, assisted their father, effectively apprenticing as cricket "club pros". Both played baseball, too, for some of the leading clubs during the amateur era of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). George grew up with the "national game" and he was barely in his teens when the American Civil War curtailed its boom; Harry was already twenty-two when the baseball fraternity convened for the first time and thirty when the war ended.


When baseball boomed in 1866, the first full peacetime season, Harry Wright was 31, probably past his athletic prime. He moved to Cincinnati on salary at the Union Cricket Club. Less than a year later he became, in effect, club pro at the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, although he is commonly called simply a baseball "manager" from that time.

Cincinnati fielded a strong regional club in 1867. With Wright working as the regular pitcher, and still a superior player at that level, the team won 16 matches and lost only to the Nationals of Washington DC on their historic tour. For 1868 he added four players from the East and one from the crosstown Buckeye club, a vanquished rival. The easterners, at least, must have been compensated by club members if not by the club.

When the NABBP permitted professionalism for 1869, Harry augmented his 1868 imports (retaining four of five) with five new men, including three more originally from the East. No one but Harry Wright himself remained from 1867; one local man and one other westerner joined seven easterners on the famous First Nine. The most important of the new men was brother George, probably the best player in the game for a few years, the highest paid man in Cincinnati at $1400 for nine months. George at shortstop remained a cornerstone of Harry's teams for ten seasons.

The Red Stockings toured the continent undefeated in 1869 and may have been the strongest team in 1870, but the club dropped professional base ball after the second season, its fourth in the game. As it turned out, the Association also passed from the scene.


During this early era, the rules of the sport for many years prohibited substitution during games except by mutual agreement with opponents, and the role of a team manager was not as specifically geared toward game strategy as is true in the modern era; instead, managers of the period combined the role of a field manager with that of a modern general manager in that they were primarily responsible for signing talented players and forming a versatile roster, as well as establishing a team approach through practice and game fundamentals.


From an invitation in 1870 by Ivers Whitney Adams, the founder and President of the Boston Red Stockings, Wright moved from managing the "Cincinnati Red Stockings" to work professionally with the first-ever base ball team in Boston, the "Boston Red Stockings" He managed the Boston Red Stockings (1871 - 1875), Boston Red Caps (1876 - 1881), Providence Grays (1882 - 1883) and Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies (1884 - 1893). His teams won six league championships (1872 - 1875, 1877, 1878) and he finished his managerial career with 1225 wins and 885 losses for a .581 winning percentage.

Wright died on October 3, 1895 in Atlantic City, New Jerseymarker, just short of 61 years old. He is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemeterymarker, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvaniamarker.

Wright was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1953. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famemarker in 2005. His brother George Wright is also a member of both Halls; a third brother, Sam, also played professionally.

2009 auction controversy

In July of 2009, Hunt Auctions stopped bidding on several lots of 19th-century letters sent to Wright and removed them from the auction. This was in response to an FBImarker investigation regarding the possibility that they were stolen from the New York Public Library sometime prior to 1986. The library was once in possession of four scrapbooks of letters that had been sent to Wright between 1865 and 1894, but in an assessment of the collection conducted during 1986 and 1987, three of the four volumes were discovered missing. FBI investigators are trying to determine "whether those items were among the items apparently stolen from the public library collection". The lots, over 20 in total, were part of a live auction Hunt Auctions was conducting during the Major League Baseball FanFest on July 14, 2009.

See also


  • Alvarez, Mark (1996). "William Henry Wright (Harry)". Baseball's First Stars. Edited by Frederick Ivor-Campbell, et al. Cleveland, OH: SABR. ISBN 0-910137-58-7
  • (major league manager)
  • (major league player)
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Harry Wright (Hall of Fame biography)
  • Retrosheet. "Harry Wright". Retrieved 2006-08-29.
  • Wright, Marshall (2000). The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0779-4
  • [77288]

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