Ferkovich: The once-ubiquitous player-manager

From SABR member Scott Ferkovich at The National Pastime Museum on August 10, 2015:

It is an occupation that likely has gone the way of the milkman and the bowling alley pinsetter. Yet its roots go back to the very beginning of professional baseball.

It is the once-ubiquitous player-manager.

Harry Wright of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the sport’s first openly professional club, was one of its earliest practitioners.

Today, we would more properly refer to Wright as the team’s general manager. He scouted and signed players, supervised training and practice sessions, worked out the scheduling of games, and coordinated travel and hotel arrangements for the team. In an era when the concept of a field manager hadn’t yet been fully developed, the 34-year-old Wright took on rudimentary aspects of the role. While playing center field, he routinely directed the positioning of the team’s other fielders.

Under Wright’s guidance, Cincinnati went 65–0 in 1869 and didn’t lose its first game until the following June. By 1871, Wright had relocated to Boston, where he went on to win three pennants as a full-time player-manager with the National Association’s Red Stockings.

Player-managers quickly became de rigueur in baseball. And why not? They made economic sense in that a club could pay one man to do the job of two. They reached the peak of their popularity between 1876 and 1910: Of the 222 player-managers in the history of the National Pastime, nearly half of them began their careers in the nineteenth century. In case you’re wondering, 59 player-managers are enshrined in Cooperstown.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/player-manager#.VckxVlFr3Rw.twitter

Originally published: August 10, 2015. Last Updated: August 10, 2015.