William Henry "Harry" Wright
(January 10, 1835 – October 3, 1895) was an English-born
baseball player, manager, and developer.
assembled, managed, and played center
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 Fame classified as a manager, a role that he virtually
England, 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
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
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
, 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
" He managed the Boston Red
(1871 - 1875), Boston Red
(1876 - 1881), Providence
(1882 - 1883) and Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies
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.
died on October 3, 1895 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, just short of 61 years old. He is buried in
West Laurel Hill
Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
inducted into the Baseball Hall
of Fame in 1953. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds
Hall of Fame in 2005.
His brother George Wright
is also a member of
both Halls; a third brother, Sam
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 FBI
investigation regarding the possibility that they were stolen from
the New York Public Library sometime prior to 1986.
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
FanFest on July 14, 2009.
- 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.