Before Albert Spalding was a very famous sporting goods salesman, he was also a very talented ball player. Such so that he was offered attractive positions to play in Washington, Cleveland, New York and other cities at annual salaries ranging from $1,500.00 to $2,500.00, amounts considered fabulous in the rather limited baseball world of that time.
However, Spalding turned down the offers and accepted a position in a grocery store in Chicago. Financial disaster occurred where he was employed, and Spalding immediately connected himself with a Chicago Insurance Company which also failed several months later.
In 1871, Spalding decided to put his business aspirations on hold to become a professional ball player. He signed with the then Boston Red Stockings as a pitcher. His team then won consecutive pennant races of the National Professional Association from 1872-1875. During this time, he was the only pitcher in the Boston team, and was therefore considered quite skillful at his position.
In 1874 Spalding visited England and made arrangements for a tour of the Boston and Philadelphia Clubs. He later returned in April and then re-crossed the ocean in the following July, where he acted as an assistant to the Business Manager of the enterprise, the late Harry Wright. The visitors were royally received and made a successful tour of the principal cities of England and Ireland.
Two years later, in 1876, Spalding assisted William Hulbert in the organization of the National League. Spalding also he acted as secretary and team manager of the Chicago Club, pitched in all of the club's sixty-six games, and drove the club to a championship that year. During the span of sixty-six games, in which he pitched, Spalding compiled an amazing record of 52 victories and 14 defeats.
In March of 1876, the Spalding brothers, J. Spalding and Albert Spalding opened a large complex in Chicago that would sell all kinds of baseball goods. In an effort to gain even more profits, he convinced the league owners that each position on every team should receive it's own distinctive clothing. The result was chaos. Jim O'Rourke spoke for his embarrassed teammates saying the following: "It is an insult to all of us to make a professional baseball player dress like a clown. If we are unfortunate enough to play near a lunatic asylum, we are likely to wind up inside looking out."
When that plan quickly failed, Spalding decided to branch out into not only creating equipment for other various sports, but he also created rule books, for practically every sport imaginable. He also manufactured safety equipment for baseball players, though it was hard to sell at first. Many catchers shared the following opinion: "There is about as much sense in putting a lightning rod on a catcher as a mask." The catchers were afraid of being called cowards, and some said that there was no point in protecting men "from things that don't happen."
The glove was just as hard to sell. Charles Waite, was the first man to appear on the field with a glove; it was a tan, ordinary, thin work glove. Waite hoped that the spectators wouldn't notice; but they did and as a result, he was ridiculed by fans who called him a sissy. After seeing Waite where the glove Spalding, started to both wear them on the field and sell them. Over the next ten years, more and more players began wearing gloves, defending themselves from insults by saying that it helped game performance; which it did.
In 1888, in another effort to expand baseball, Spalding organized a second world tour. He had two representative teams of baseball players, the Chicago team and the "All America" team. The two teams visited five continents and fourteen different countries of the world. Although baseball did not catch on in the countries that Spalding toured, it had grown on its own. Cubans, Nicaraguans and other Latin American's caught on to the game after being taught it by American sailors. In fact, a Latino named, Esteban Bellan had already made it to the major leagues.
Earlier, in the 1970's American schoolteachers had taught the Japanese children the game of baseball, and it caught on very quickly. On May 23, 1896, the American's living in Japan agreed to take challenge them in a ball game. Japan crushed the American's 29-4. However, America challenged them to a rematch and when they accepted, we secretly recruited better players among the American sailors on two warships that happened to be on port. However, the Japanese won that game as well 32-9. A few days later, America lost again in Tokyo. The Tokyo team would go on to play the American clubs 12 times, and win 8 games, they also beat us in the amount of runs scored; while we scored a sluggish 64 runs, they scored 230.
In 1885 the first store outside of Chicago opened in New York City, and in 1889, new stores opened in Denver and Philadelphia. The company soon expanded rapidly over the following years and grew to become known as both the largest and best known company in its field. Within two years the Spalding chain had grown from three to fourteen stores, including several overseas. "Quality First" became the slogan of the factory organization.
A. G. Spalding died on September 10, 1915 in Point Loma, California.
Besides the originator of the game, Spalding did more for baseball than any other man living or dead. From youth to old age, he was a potent figure in every department of the game. It was through his lasting resourcefulness and unerring judgement as both a player and business executive that ranks him today as one of the greatest figures ever connected with the "World of Sports".
"Next to Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, the name of A. G. Spalding is the most famous in American literature. It has been blazing forth on the cover of guides of all sorts of sports, upon bats and gloves for many years. Young America gets its knowledge of the past in the world of athletics from something that has "AL Spalding" on it in big black letters, and for that reason, as much as any other, he is one of the national figures of our times. "