This article was written by Lyle Spatz
This article was published in the Fall 2013 Baseball Research Journal
FRANCIS C. RICHTER was born in Philadelphia in 1854 and was later a noted amateur player in that city. He began his journalistic career with the Philadelphia Day in 1872, before moving on to the Public Ledger, Philadelphia’s highest circulation newspaper. While at the Public Ledger, Richter started the nation’s first newspaper sports department.
In December 1887, Richter was among those baseball journalists who met in Cincinnati to form the Base Ball Reporters Association of America. Along with other sportswriters, like Henry Chadwick, he was a member of the rules committee that sought to strike a balance between offense and defense that would make the game exciting to spectators.
Richter had helped form the American Association in 1882, which included his hometown team, the Athletics. However, he was unhappy with the sale of liquor and Sunday baseball that was a major attraction of the Association, and a year later he helped put a National League team in Philadelphia. He played a prominent role in the salary wars of the late nineteenth century, and in 1892, he was influential in engineering the amalgamation of the American Association and the National League. He was also a financial backer of the 1884 Union Association and its Philadelphia team.
In 1902, Richter switched allegiance again when he helped the founders of the new American League. Nevertheless, in 1907 the National League offered him the presidency of the league. Richter declined the offer, saying he wanted instead to promote baseball “by lift(ing) the game up to the heights” of a national pastime.
Richter’s lasting contribution to baseball and baseball research came from his association with two publications: Sporting Life and the Reach Official Guide. He was the founder and editor of Sporting Life for its entire first incarnation, 1883 until 1917. Founded three years before The Sporting News, it was baseball’s most influential paper. For years, Richter used Sporting Life to warn against corruption and gambling in baseball. He also used Sporting Life to support the Player’s League in 1890. He disposed of it in 1917, during the First World War.
The Sporting News had been granted a subsidy by Major League Baseball, but Sporting Life had not.
Richter later became a columnist for The Sporting News, where his column “Casual Comment” ran from December 1921 to September 1925. For many years, he was one of the official scorers for the World’s Series games, sharing the honor with J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News.
In 1901, Richter, who promoted baseball all his life, was named the first Editor-In-Chief of the Reach Official Guide. He continued in that role until he died 25 years later, at the age of 71, the day after completing the 1926 edition of the Reach Guide.
His book Richter’s History and Records of Baseball, published in 1914, is one of the seminal works in baseball history. It is the first record book arranged topically rather than chronologically, and the first book to list the record-setting achievements of individuals and teams throughout professional baseball.
For more information on the Henry Chadwick Award, click here.