Hometown Star: ‘Bushel Basket’ Charlie Gould of Cincinnati Red Stockings

This article was written by Kevin Grace

This article was published in the 1984 Baseball Research Journal


It was a summer day in Brooklyn when the spectacular winning streak finally came to an end. On June 14, 1870, the Brooklyn Atlantics defeated the mighty Cincinnati Red Stockings, 8-7, thus halting the most remarkable string of victories in baseball history.

Over the past 100 years different accounts have given the 1869-1870 Cincinnati skein of consecutive games without a defeat as anywhere from 81 to 130, but there is no doubt about the first loss. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, an Atlantics’ rally knotted the score at 7-7. With a man on first base and one out, the next Brooklyn batter sent a hard smash down to the Cincinnati first baseman, Charlie Gould. The bare-handed Gould extended his lanky arms to snare the drive, but could only knock it down. Grabbing the ball, he tossed it to second baseman Charles Sweasy, but Sweasy missed it, and as the ball bounded to the outfield the runner raced for third and then continued on home with the winning run.

In the many games leading up to that defeat, Gould had proven himself to be a fine fielder on an extraordinary team. Earning the nickname of “Bushel Basket” for his abilities at first base, he was an important part of the Red Stockings’ success. And as the only native Cincinnatian on the club, he provided a home-grown rallying point for the local fans, adding to the popularity of the team and the game of baseball.

Charles Harvey Gould was born on August 21, 1847 to George W. and Elizabeth Fisk Gould. His father was a native of New York and had come to Cincinnati in the early 1830s to set himself up as a river trader. The elder Gould built his modest business of selling butter and eggs along the Ohio River waterfront into a thriving wholesale commission enterprise.

Young Charlie Gould’s baseball career began in 1868 when he was chosen by manager Harry Wright to be the Red Stockings’ first baseman after the Cincinnati owners decided to field an all-professional team for 1869 rather than the part-amateur, part-professional organization they previously had. At six feet and 172 pounds, Gould was bigger than most of his baseball contemporaries. He made an odd appearance on the field with his gangly body. He had long arms and along neck topped by an onion-shaped head. A goatee added a dour appearance to his looks. But his size and long arms enabled him to cover the ground around first base in an age when a fielder assumed his playing position next to the bag.

For a salary of $800 out of a team payroll of $9,100, Gould gave up his job as a bookkeeper in his father’s business to join other players whose occupations ranged from jeweler, insurance agent and hatter to engraver, marble cutter and piano maker. Gould and his teammates – Harry Wright in center field; Asa Brainard, pitcher; George Wright (Harry’s brother), shortstop; Fred Waterman, third base; Cal McVey, right field; Douglas Allison, catcher; Andrew Leonard, left field; Charlie Sweasy, second base; and Richard Hurley as substitute – played to a city wildly enthusiastic about its Red Stockings. And the 1869 season gave Cincinnatians plenty to cheer about.

On their first tour of the East, the Reds registered easy victories in Massachusetts and New York, including a win over the renowned Mutuals by a score of 4-2. After victories in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Wheeling, W.Va., the team arrived home on July 1 to a huge crowd of fans celebrating the club’s success. Praise rained down on Harry Wright and his players not only in Cincinnati, but across the country as favorable press from Harper’s Weekly had advertised Cincinnati prowess on the playing field.

The high point of the adoration came when the Reds, being toasted from one end of the town to the other, were presented with a mammoth 27-foot baseball bat from a local lumber yard. Containing the names of all ten players, the bat symbolized the huge achievements of the team.

Success followed success as the Red Stockings rolled to more and more victories over their opponents. The only blemish on their record came in a five-inning, 17-17 tie with the Troy Haymakers. The Troy captain, William “Cherokee” Fisher, disputed a foul tip and began an argument which ended with Fisher ordering his team from the field. After the game, which later was found to have been influenced by professional gamblers, the Reds embarked on a tour of the West, traveling by barge, steamboat, stage coach and train. Again they piled up wins. The team ended its season of 57 victories and one tie in 58 games with another conquest of the Mutuals, 17-8, in November.

The euphoria extended into the early part of 1870 as the Reds continued their undefeated work of the previous year, capturing their first 27 games. However, they met their match that June day on Brooklyn’s Capitoline Grounds.

Shaking off the defeat that was inevitable, Harry Wright, Gould and their associates resumed their winning ways, but they faced sagging support from the fans at home. Interest in the team wilted amid player dissatisfaction, and dwindling attendance led to red ink. When the 1870 season ended, the Cincinnati Red Stockings folded.

In 1871 Gould joined Harry and George Wright when they took their baseball skills to Boston and the newly-formed National Association. There they also named the team the Red Stockings. Gould spent the next two seasons with Boston, playing first base and the outfield. Harry Wright continued his mastery of the game with a disputed second-place finish – and a feud with the champion Philadelphia Athletics – in 1871 and then led his team to the championship in 1872.

Gould had moderate success in his first year at Boston, playing regularly and fielding well. But in 1872 he was replaced at first by newcomer Fraley Rogers and played most of the year in the outfield.

Unsigned by any team in 1873, Charlie caught on with Baltimore of the National Association the following year as first baseman and catcher. His stay in Baltimore lasted one season and in 1875 Gould packed his bags for New Haven, Conn., where he signed on as a manager-first baseman-outfielder.

The New Haven team went nowhere and at the end of the season Gould again was scouting around for a team. His searching brought him home to Cincinnati.

The National League had recently been formed and Cincinnati was granted a charter. The club’s stockholders decided they wanted Gould to be their first manager. Josiah L. Keck, a Cincinnati meatpacker, assumed the presidency of the club. Keck sought to reestablish the glory days of the early Red Stockings, and so after a five-year absence professional baseball returned to the city with one of its original heroes at the team’s helm.

Placing himself at first base, Gould secured his old teammate Charlie Sweasy for second. Other members that year were Henry Kessler, shortstop; Emanuel “Red Leg” Snyder in left field; Charlie Jones, a fine hitter, in center; Dave Pierson in right and as catcher; “Darling” Amos Booth (also a local amateur actor) as catcher and substitute; Bobby Clack as substitute, and Cherokee Fisher, that same Haymaker who tinged the Red Stockings’ perfect record in 1869, as pitcher.

The season began in grand fashion. Before a crowd of 2,000 at the Avenue Grounds, the Reds opened on April 25, 1876 by beating the St. Louis Browns, 2-1. The biggest supporters of the team were the city’s newspapers. Before the first victory, the Cincinnati Enquirer had stated: “It is the belief of good judges who have seen the Cincinnati Club at practice during the last few days that it is an unusually strong nine and will be a credit to Cincinnati, the home of the famous Red Stockings Club of other days.”

Three thousand people showed up at the second game and saw the Browns’ take a 5-2 drubbing from the Reds. Cincinnati was in high spirits. A baseball board was erected at Front Street near the river so the team’s progress could be followed and betting odds (gambling on the games was an accepted pastime) were published in the newspaper. The team was affectionately called the “Porkopolitans” after the city’s nickname of Porkopolis, bestowed upon it decades earlier by a traveler impressed by the large meat-packing industry.

Even after a few losses, the Enquirer continued to tout the team, referring to the players daily as “Our Boys” and saying this about Gould on May 4: “Charley Gould has won golden opinions on every hand by the admirable way in which he captains his men.” But those opinions soon changed. The losses mounted as the Reds played ineptly in the field and were often blanked at the plate. The fans became impatient with the club’s efforts. Now they called the players “Mr. Keck’s hired muffers” and some suggested that they would do better working in the pork plants.

Things went from bad to worse for Gould and his charges. Although Fisher had picked up the two initial victories, he was now ineffective on the mound and the team still could not score runs. The Enquirer‘s boosterism turned to sarcasm on May 12: “The Cincinnati Red Stockings have engaged (Will) Foley of the Maple Leafs of Guelph, Canada, to catch for them. It would have been a good idea to have engaged the whole of the Maple Leafs while they were about it. They might have secured a run or two more against the Chicagos.”

A few days later, on May 15, an incident occurred which only emphasized the team’s growing reputation as comic bumblers. Heading south from Chicago after a game, the Reds stopped the train in Effingham, Ill., for an impromptu workout. Hours later, judges who have seen the Cincinnati Club at practice during the last few days that it is an unusually strong nine and will be a credit to Cincinnati, the home of the famous Red Stockings Club of other days.”

Three thousand people showed up at the second game and saw the B~rowns’ take a 5-2 drubbing from the Reds. Cincinnati was in high spirits. A base- ball board was erected at Front Street near the river so the team’s progress could be followed and betting odds (gambling on the games was an accepted pastime) were published in the newspaper. The team was affectionally called the “Porkopolitans” after the city’s nickname of Porkopolis, bestowed upon it decades earlier by a traveler impressed by the large meat-packing industry.

Even after a few losses, the Enquirer continued to tout the team, referring to the players daily as “Our Boys” and saying this about Gould on May 4: “Charley Gould has won golden opinions on every hand by the admirable way in which he captains his men.” But those opinions soon changed. The losses mounted as the Reds played ineptly in the field and were often blanked at the plate. The fans became impatient with the club’s efforts. Now they called the players “Mr. Keck’s hired muffers” and some suggested that they would do better working in the pork plants.

Things went from bad to worse for Gould and his charges. Although Fisher had picked up the two initial victories, he was now ineffective on the mound and the team still could not score runs. The Enquirer‘s boosterism turned to sarcasm on May 12: “The Cincinnati Red Stockings have engaged (Will) Foley of the Maple Leafs of Guelph, Canada, to catch for them. It would have been a good idea to have engaged the whole of the Maple Leafs while they were about it. They might have secured a run or two more against the Chicagos.”

A few days later, on May 15, an incident occurred which only emphasized the team’s growing reputation as comic bumblers. Heading south from Chicago after a game, the Reds stopped the train in Effingham, Ill., for an impromptu workout. Hours later, when the Reds climbed aboard and resumed the trip, a brakeman ran through the cars carrying a stiff, round-crowned hat and yelling that he had found it on the platform. Word spread quickly that someone had fallen off the train beneath its wheels and was killed. Cries and howls arose when it was discovered that right fielder Bobby Clack wore such a hat and, in fact, was nowhere to be found. Moaning about the fate now in store for Clack’s poor widow and orphan children, the players sobbed about what a fine man Clack had been and how he was such an inspirational leader on the field.

During this tearful eulogy, Gould felt that he must sit down and compose himself. Picking up valises and coats from a seat, he discovered Clack fast asleep beneath! The sobs turned to cheers and exclamations of relief. But after this Tom Sawyer-like funeral, the question remained: Whose hat was it? Then someone remembered that Keck, the club president, had a hat like the one that was found. The wailing began again because Keck had the team’s traveling money! While the players searched their pockets to pool their cash, Keck appeared and claimed his hat.

By the end of May, Cherokee Fisher was exiled from the pitcher’s mound to the outfield and the Enquirer proclaimed after a 9-0 loss to Hartford:

“At Last They Are Ahead – In Goose Eggs.” A win finally came on June 1 when the Reds defeated New York, 6-4. Gould had two runs batted in, prompting the newspaper to call him “Old Reliable” and saying, “Charley is never so earnest in his batting as when he has two or three men on base to bring in.”

More losses, though, followed. On June 11, a fan wrote to the Enquirer:

To the Base-Ball Reporter of Enquirer:

Will you please answer the following in the

Enquirer:

As a Base-Ball Club, do the Red Stockings succeed or suck eggs the best of the League Clubs?

Truly yours,

Outch

(We are not quite certain we succinctly understand your meaning, but on a venture we should say that “Our Boys” succumb better than any other League Club.)

Gould’s only relief from his team’s miserable play came during one trip when he left the club to return to Cincinnati for a few days after his son was born. When the team finally came home on June 19, the newspaper noted its arrival with this verse recording the hostile reception by the fans:

Welcome Home.
Rag-tags to the right of them,
Rag-tags to the left of them,
Rag-tags in front of the them,
Shouting and flocking
Out of the depot’s doors
Up to a Front Street car
Marched the Red Stockings.

A local boy by the name of Dory Dean became the team’s pitcher in June, but with his weird deliveries of throwing from the shoulder or facing second base before whirling and shooting the ball to the plate, opposing clubs continued to laugh and win at the Red Stockings’ expense.

By August the Reds had a record of 6-37. Attendance was down to a few hundred and Keck made it known that he would seek a new manager in 1877. It was already conceded that Gould was a good player but completely incapable of handling his players. The fans thought he was just a proxy for Keck and that he had no backbone.

News accounts of the Reds became shorter and shorter as the team continued its losing ways. Gould even pitched in one game but was unable to help the team. The end came mercifully on October 9 when Hartford beat the Reds, 11-0, before a sparse crowd. The Red Stockings finished the season with a record of 9-56 for a dismal .138 winning percentage. Chicago took the championship and the Reds were dead last.

In 1877 Gould was still with the Red Stockings but only as a part-time player at first base and in the outfield. He was replaced as manager by an outfielder named Lipman Pike. Other changes were made with Bob “Magnet” Addy and Levi Meyerle joining the team, but the losing didn’t stop. Pike was replaced as manager by Addy as the Reds finished in sixth place -last again – with a slightly better mark of 15-42. Charlie Gould was released. At the age of 30, his nine-year career was at an end.

His playing days were indeed over, but Gould continued to serve the club. Drawing an annual salary of $700, he acted as the team’s assistant secretary, taking minutes at stockholders’ meetings, obtaining players and making travel arrangements. In 1879 Gould was also a head groundskeeper and equipment manager of sorts, purchasing brooms, buckets and balls and seeing that the ball park was kept in shape.

But by 1880 his association with the Red Stockings had terminated. Gould went from job to job and from tenement to tenement, moving about in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood 17 times in 25 years. He worked first as a timekeeper and clerk for the Police Department, later becoming a regular policeman. In 1883 Gould joined the Sheriff’s Office as a summons deputy (his brother George was also a deputy), but quit in 1886 to work once more as a police clerk.

In the years that followed, Gould lived with his widowed mother until her death in 1891 and worked variously as a streetcar conductor, a store room manager for the Pullman Palace Car Company, an insurance agent and as a clerk.

Gould’s Cincinnati wanderings ended in the suburb of Norwood. He left the city for good about 1913, presumably to live in the East with one of his sons. On April 10, 1917 Gould died at the Flushing, Long Island, home of his son, Charles Fisk Gould. He was 69 years old.

Charlie Gould’s body was brought home to Cincinnati and buried in the family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery. But for some reason a tombstone was never placed on the grave. Warren Giles corrected this neglect in 1951 when as president of the Reds he had a monument erected to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the National League and to honor Gould as the first Reds manager in the league. Under a shady fir tree, the granite block now marks Gould’s final resting place.

Gould wasn’t a good manager, and although he was a superb fielder, he was only a fair hitter. But he was a baseball pioneer, a witness to new eras in his city’s history and his country’s pastime.

Gould’s Cincinnati wanderings ended in the suburb of Norwood. He left the city for good about 1913, presumably to live in the East with one of his sons. On April 10, 1917 Gould died at the Flushing, Long Island, home of his son, Charles Fisk Gould. He was 69 years old.

Charlie Gould’s body was brought home to Cincinnati and buried in the family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery. But for some reason a tombstone was never placed on the grave. Warren Giles corrected this neglect in 1951 when as president of the Reds he had a monument erected to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the National League and to honor Gould as the first Reds manager in the league. Under a shady fir tree, the granite block now marks Gould’s final resting place.

Gould wasn’t a good manager, and although he was a superb fielder, he was only a fair hitter. But he was a baseball pioneer, a witness to new eras in his city’s history and his country’s pastime.

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