Charlie Gould

This article was written by Charles F. Faber

The boy loved baseball. As a teenager he was the best baseball player in his hometown. But Charlie Gould probably never dreamed of playing baseball for a living. His future career was more likely as a clerk or perhaps as a bookkeeper. At that time, there were no openly all-professional baseball clubs, where a young man could earn a living. That changed when Charlie was 20 years old; he went on to play and manage in the major leagues for six seasons.

Charles Harvey Gould was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 21, 1847, the fourth child of Elizabeth Fisk and George W. Gould, a produce merchant who started by selling butter and eggs along the Ohio River waterfront and built the enterprise into a thriving wholesale business. As a youngster, Charlie worked as a clerk in his father’s business. At the age of 15 he was playing first base for the Buckeyes, the best ball club in the Queen City. He stayed with the Buckeyes from 1863 through 1867 and earned a reputation as an outstanding fielder. It is said that he won a baseball-throwing competition by throwing a ball 302 feet 3 inches, quite a feat considering the condition of the balls used in the contest.1

In 1866 Aaron B. Champion, a Cincinnati lawyer and entrepreneur, formed the Cincinnati Base Ball Club. The club won two games and lost two during its initial season, both losses coming at the hands of the Buckeyes. The team played its home games on the grounds of the Union Cricket Club. One of the cricketers, Harry Wright, had been a star player for the famed Knickerbocker baseball club in New York before becoming a professional cricket player. Wright decided that baseball had a brighter future than cricket, so he accepted Champion’s offer to join the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, as captain and center fielder. Soon Wright was named manager, with duties that today would be considered responsibilities of the field manager, general manager, traveling secretary, and scout.

In 1867 the Cincinnatis were a strong aggregation, augmented by several paid performers Wright had brought from the East. The club won 17 games, while losing only one. Among the victories was a 109-15 drubbing of the Holt Baseball Club in Newport, Kentucky. The one loss was a 53-10 beating at the hands of the Washington Nationals. The defeat was a particularly bitter pill for Harry Wright, as Washington’s star player was shortstop George Wright, Harry’s brother.

Champion and Wright were determined to make the club not only the strongest in the Midwest, but one that could compete successfully with the powerful teams in the East. In order to accomplish this they had to obtain the best players in the country, which meant they had to pay the price. In 1868 the National Association of Base Ball Players still had a rule against pay for play, but the rule was frequently violated, sometimes openly, more often by subterfuge, such as providing salaries for sham jobs in a sponsor’s business (The rule was repealed during the winter of 1868-69). Champion and Wright took full advantage of any opportunities to acquire star players. Champion remained president of the club, responsible for players’ salaries. Wright became his man for all seasons.

Before the 1868 season began Wright hired seamstress Bertha Betram to create new uniforms. She made white flannel jerseys, with a bright red C stitched on the front; white knickers with a clasp below the knee, and long, bright red stockings, giving rise to the clubs new nickname – the Red Stockings. The 1868 club won 41 of the 48 games they played that season, including two victories over their Queen City rivals, the Buckeyes, 28-10 and 20-12. Local bragging rights clearly now belonged to the Red Stockings.

Seven losses were seven too many for Champion and Wright. They were in pursuit of perfection.

In 1869 they fielded the first openly all-professional club in the history of baseball. Most prominent among the acquisitions was Harry Wright’s brother, George, perhaps the best ballplayer of his era. Also prominent among the new professionals was Charlie Gould, the ex-Buckeye who had been hired away from his former team. At six feet, Gould was the tallest player on the squad. At a time when most first sackers were anchored to the bag, Gould, with his height, his unusually long arms, and his agility, was able to play off the base and still get back to the bag in time to catch a throw from a fellow infielder. So adept was he at catching balls thrown his direction that his teammates said throwing to him was as easy as throwing a ball into a bushel basket. Bushel Basket became Gould’s nickname.

The only native Cincinnatian on the team, Gould was popular with Queen City cranks (as fans were called in those days.) He was affable, fun-loving, and accessible to the cranks. He enjoyed practical jokes, as long as they were not malicious. He did not participate in the rowdy behavior that characterized some of his teammates.

On April 17, 1869, the Red Stockings played their first exhibition game as an all-professional club, defeating a local team of amateur all-stars, 24-15. Charlie Gould started at first base and collected four hits. On May 4 the Red Stockings met another Cincinnati squad, the Great Western Club, in their first official game of the season, and trounced their opponents, 45-9. After defeating all the local opposition, the Red Stockings embarked on a trip to the East.. Gould played first base in every game, batted second in the lineup, and was frequently a star of the game. One of his more outstanding games came at Springfield, Massachusetts, when he accumulated six base hits and eight stolen bases, as the Red Stockings defeated the Mutuals, 80-5

The undefeated Cincinnatis steamed into New York City, prepared to meet three of the strongest teams in the nation. On June 15 they defeated the New York Mutuals in a hard-fought contest, 4-2. The next day they routed the Brooklyn Atlantics, 32-10. The Red Stockings completed their three-game sweep of Gotham’s finest by trouncing the Brooklyn Eckfords, 24-5. They continued their victorious swing through the East with wins in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and wherever a game could be scheduled. The final game on the tour came in Wheeling, West Virginia. The Red Stockings were leading the Baltic Base Club by the score of 53-0 before the game was halted because of rain. Gould collected six hits in the four innings played before the rains came.

Returning to the Queen City, the Red Stockings continued their winning ways, highlighted by a 71-15 blowout of their erstwhile rivals, the Buckeyes. To prove it was no fluke, the Stockings prevailed in a rematch, 103-8. On August 26, the Troy Haymakers visited Cincinnati. The result was one of the most controversial games ever played. With the score tied, 17-17, Troy’s president pulled his team off the field to protest an umpire’s decision. The umpire, John Brockway, awarded the game to Cincinnati on a forfeit. However, the NABBP Judiciary Committee held that the game was officially a tie – the first blemish on the Red Stockings’ 1868 record.2 It was later revealed that the protest had been staged. Haymaker owner John Morrissey had wanted the game to end in a tie so that he could collect on his bets that Cincinnati would not win the game. After the season ended the Troy club apologized for its disgraceful behavior.3

Having defeated the best in the East and the Midwest, the Red Stockings had only one more world to conquer. They went west. They won games in St. Louis, Omaha, San Francisco, and Sacramento by huge margins and returned home undefeated. Harry Wright listed the club’s record as 56 wins and one tie. Various newspapers reported the victory total as 57, 58, or 61, depending on whether rain-shortened contests were included.4 The average score was something like 40-10. Charlie Gould was fourth on the team with 21 home runs.

His salary for 1869 was $800. In addition, every man on the team received a $50 bonus for completing an undefeated season.

In April 1870 the Red Stockings boarded steamboats and headed South. They defeated the Louisville Eagles, 94-7, and headed for New Orleans. The Cincinnatians defeated the five teams they faced in the Crescent City by scores of 51-1; 80-6; 39-6; 26-7; and 24-4. On the way back the Red Stockings stopped in Memphis long enough to demolish the Oriental Base Ball Club, 100-2. Returning home the club continued winning by huge margins, the most lopsided being a 108-3 blasting of the Union Base Ball Club of Urbana, Ohio. By the fifth inning of this game Gould already had collected 11 hits. The next day the Red Stockings whipped the Dayton Base Ball Club, 108-9. They defeated the Forest City club of Cleveland and headed east, handily beating teams in upstate New York and Massachusetts. When they reached New York City, they defeated the Mutuals, 16-3, for the 27th consecutive victory of the 1880 season.

On June 14, they faced the Brooklyn Atlantics. At the end of nine innings, the score was tied, 5-5. The Atlantics began to leave the field, satisfied with a tie. Wright and Champion both protested, citing the rule that in case of a tie at the end of nine innings the game must continue “unless it be mutually agreed upon by the captains of the two nines to consider the game as drawn.”5 Rather than lose the game by forfeit, the Atlantics allowed the game to resume. In the top of the 11th inning, the Red Stockings scored two runs to take the lead, 7-5.The Atlantics came back in the bottom of the frame and tied the game at 7-7. With Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson on first base, pitcher George Zettlein came to the plate. He smacked a hard grounder to the right of Charlie Gould at first base. The Bushel Basket, reputedly the best fielding first baseman of his time, unexpectedly muffed the ball. Retrieving the ball and seeing Ferguson heading for second base, Gould fired the ball wildly toward second. The ball bounced into left field, and Ferguson scored the winning run. The Red Stockings’ long winning streak had come to an end on an error by the Bushel Basket.

During the season, dissension struck the club. Two major cliques emerged, divided over opinions about drinking and discipline. The Wright brothers, Gould, and McVey opposed what they considered rowdy behavior; the others had a different view about off-field conduct.

On August 2, 1870, Aaron Burt Champion unexpectedly resigned as president of the club. The vice president and secretary also announced their resignations. Under new leadership in the front office, the Red Stockings finished the 1870 season with a record of 68 wins, six losses, and one tie. However, Stephen D. Guschov quotes from a pamphlet issued by Champion’s successor A. P. C. Bonte noting that the executive board decided that they could not afford to pay the “enormous salaries now demanded by professional players” and would revert to amateur status in 1871.

On November 30, Harry Wright announced that he had agreed to become the manager, captain, and secretary of the new professional club being organized in Boston. Less than two months later George Wright joined his brother in the Hub. Charlie Gould and Cal McVey soon were on their way to Beantown. Boston ownership asked Wright if he could bring any other former Cincinnati players to the fold, but Wright demurred. He wanted no drinkers, growlers, or shrinkers on his team.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1871, a new organization was formed. Called the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, it is generally considered baseball’s first major league. Boston became a charter member. Wright christened the team the Boston Red Stockings and led it to a second-place finish in the circuit’s inaugural season, two games behind the pennant winning Philadelphia Athletics. Wright righted the ship the next season and won the league championship in each of the four remaining years of the loop’s existence. In the Baseball Encyclopedia, Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette paid tribute to Wright: “In a league with questionable organization, officiating, and, in some cases, honesty of its participants, British-born Harry Wright was the pillar of class and professionalism.”6

Gould was Boston’s regular first baseman in 1871 and 1872. He had moderate success as a batter, hitting .285 in 1871and finishing in the league’s top 10 in doubles and home runs. His average declined to .255 in 1872, but he led the league in triples and made the top 10 in extra-base hits. In the field he continued to excel, twice leading the league in putouts and double plays He finished second or third each year in range factor. On the negative side, he led the loop’s first basemen in errors both years.

Unsigned in 1873, Gould caught on with Baltimore in 1874, but had a miserable year at the plate, hitting only .224. In 1873 or 1874 Gould married a young Ohio woman, Laura Netherly. The couple had five children. Twin girls, Laura and Laulie, were born in July 1874. Laura died in infancy. A son, Morton, was born in 1876; a daughter, Florence, in 1879; and another son, Charles, in 1886.

In 1875 Gould joined the New Haven Elm Citys as a player-manager for the club’s only big league season. His first managerial experience was not a good one. New Haven folded in mid-season with a record of seven wins and 40 losses.

Despite the debacle in Connecticut, Gould was given another chance to manage. Cincinnati had joined the new National League in 1876, reclaimed the name Red Stockings, and hired its former home town hero Charlie Gould as its first National League manager. He had even less success in Cincinnati than he had in New Haven. The Red Stocking finished in last place with a record of nine wins and 56 losses. That was the end of Gould’s managerial career. He played a few games in 1877, appearing in his final game on July 12 at the age of 29.

For the remainder of 1877 and the next two seasons, Gould remained with the Red Stockings, acting for a time as the team’s assistant secretary, taking minutes at stockholders’ meetings, and making travel arrangements. In 1879 he was a groundskeeper and equipment manager, purchasing brooms, buckets, and balls and seeing that the ball park was kept in shape.7

By 1880 Gould’s employment by the Red Stockings had ended. Over the next several years he held various positions with the Cincinnati Police Department and the Sheriff’s office. He later worked briefly in such jobs as streetcar conductor, insurance agent, clerk and storeroom manager for the Pullman Palace Car Company.8

In 1913 Gould left his hometown and went east to live with his son, Charles. He died at his son’s home in Flushing, New York, on April 10, 1917, at the age of 69. Gould’s body was brought back to Cincinnati and buried in the family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery. A tombstone was not placed on the grave until 1951, when Warren Giles, general manager of the Reds, had a monument erected to honor Gould as the Reds’ first National League manager. Ironically, Gould was not a very good manager. He was a fair hitter and a superb fielder. He should be remembered as a baseball pioneer with the Red Stockings and as the first major leaguer born in the Queen City.

 

This biography is included in "Boston’s First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings" (SABR, 2016), edited by Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin.

 

Notes

1 Stephen D. Guschov, The Red Stockings of Cincinnati: Baseball’s First All-Professional Team. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998), 31.

2 Ibid., 79.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 92-93.

5 George Bulkley, “The Day the Reds Lost,” The National Pastime, SABR, 1983, 8.

6 Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004), 1363.

7 Kevin Grace, ‘“Bushel Basket’ Charlie Gould of Red Stockings.” Baseball Research Journal 13, SABR, 1984.

8 Ibid.