These English greats have truly made their mark across the pond

Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball

In the latest instalment of Curveballs and Sliders, Herts Baseball Club’s Joe Gray takes a look at the great Englishmen who appear in Cooperstown, New York – the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which is set in the bucolic New York town of Cooperstown, houses countless artefacts from the game’s past and also a collection of plaques for the inductees into the Hall of Fame itself. To be inducted, one must not have been just very good but truly great.

It may come as a surprise to visitors to find that, ignoring the United States (the birth country of the vast majority of inductees), only Cuba has yielded more Hall of Famers than our very own country, England. Over the years, three Englishmen have been inducted: Harry Wright, Tom Connolly, and Henry Chadwick.

Harry Wright – born in Sheffield in 1835 – was player–manager of baseball’s first openly all-professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.

He was originally a cricket player, but made the transition to baseball with great success. He guided his team to four straight league titles between 1872 and 1875 and two further titles in 1877 and 1878.

Wright was also a famed innovator of the game. He is credited with having introduced the practice of hitting pre-game practice catches to outfielders, backing up plays in the field, and shifting fielding position to account for hitters’ tendencies.

Tom Connolly – born in Manchester in 1870 – was an umpire for 34 years during what is considered as the roughest era in baseball history.

He is said to have gained players’ respect as an impartial and fair-minded arbiter. Connolly is remembered as a calm and dignified disciplinarian; he once went 10 consecutive seasons without ejecting a single player.

He was an umpire in the first modern World Series in 1903 and in eight of these competitions in total.

Henry Chadwick – born in Exeter in 1824 – was an early baseball pioneer, but he influenced the game by with a pen rather than a bat. He was a renowned journalist and introduced and developed ways of calculating and conveying performance-related statistics that remain the game’s numerical backbone. He was also a prolific writer of instructional manuals and had major influence over early rules committees.

> Joe Gray is the founder and co-ordinator of Project COBB, the home of the chronicling of British Baseball. To visit the website click here

Next week, Curveballs and Sliders will look in more detail at baseball’s many statistics.