The Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia
("Athletic" or the "Philadelphia Athletics") was one
of the first organized baseball clubs and managed to survive all the way
through to the birth of the National League.
E. Hicks Hayhurst (1872-1873)
D.F. Houston (1874)
George Thompson (1875)
C. Spering (1875)
Thomas J. Smith (1876)
Established in 1860, the team may well have been the first professional
team three years ahead of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The National
Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) investigated the team in 1866
for paying at least three of its players, though it was not disciplined.
It was this kind of "under the table" paying of players that led
to a decision by the NABBP in December of 1868 to form a new alliance for
legitimate professional teams. The National Association
(NA) was the legacy of that meeting.
While the team never held the season-ending title of champion in the
NABBP, it did hold the best record from 1866 to 1868, going 23-2, 44-3,
and 47-3 those three years. The team was widely seen as among the finest
in the country when they entered the NA during its first season in 1871.
Indeed, the Athletic won the first NA whip pennant and were among the
best teams for most of their existence, which ended when they were kicked
out the National League for failing to make
a required "western" trip to finish out their schedule in 1876.
(The Mutuals were also kicked. Read
The Athletic won the first NA pennant on the last day of the season by
beating the Atlantics of Brooklyn
4-1. Either a loss or a postponement of the game beyond November 1st would
have given the title to the Boston Red Stockings.
Anson hit .415 - which was only good enough for third in the NA - in
1872. Hall of Famer Anson finished in the top 10 in batting an amazing 18
times (in 27 seasons), leading the league at age 42 with a .388 mark in
McBride was both the manager and the star pitcher for the team,
winning 149 and losing only 74 in five NA seasons for the Athletic. His
best season was perhaps 1875, when he scattered 602 hits over 538 innings
to finish with a 1.97 ERA and a 44-14 record!
At the team's annual meeting following the 1873 season, a dividend of
$25 per share was ordered to be paid to the shareholders. Obviously the
team was profitable at this stage.
The team made the transition from the National Association to the
National League in 1876. However, they made the fatal mistake of not
completing their schedule (they had lost money and tried to prevent losing
more by not making the required return trip west to repay the western
teams that had traveled to Philadelphia). This might have been merely
frowned upon in the old National Association, but it got them (and the Mutuals)
kicked out of the league never to be heard from again.
David Nemec, the tireless 19th Century Baseball
researcher, has also written a novel called Early
Dreams, which takes place during this era and features real-life characters
such as Cap Anson, George Wright, and Henry Lucas.
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