The Baseball All-Star game will be played this week. I can’t think of a better time to recall a baseball player who had a profound early impact on golf in America. No, it’s not A. G. Spalding although he would qualify. Rather, the player I’m thinking of is George Wright. “Who?”, you say. Here is an excerpt from my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, that will give you the answer.
“… on December 10, 1890, with almost no one watching, George Wright, later a baseball Hall-of-Famer, and three friends played the first round of golf ever in Boston. Wright, baseball player turned golfer, created the first great moment for New England golf. Earlier, in 1871, with his baseball career over, Wright, along with Henry Ditson, formed the sporting goods company, Wright and Ditson. Their company was bought out by A. G. Spalding & Co. in the early 1890’s. Up to the buyout, Wright and Ditson had imported all of its golf merchandise from Scotland. Later, Spalding & Co. began producing its own clubs under both the Spalding and the Wright and Ditson names. George Wright’s accomplishments moved me to write a poem commemorating him:
♦George Wright (1847–1937)
He never had an equal as a fielder
He ran the bases better than the rest
As a hitter he was feared and fearless
In his time George Wright was unsurpassed.
In ’69 he played for Cincinnati
Standing out at bat and on the field
He revolutionized the play at shortstop
And hit .633 which was unreal.
From Cincinnati he moved on to Boston
The Stockings first, the Red Caps later on
He led the mighty Sox to four straight pennants
Then with the Caps another two he won.
His ball field feats were cheered by all who saw him
He was an early hero of the game
Still it took the voters until thirty-seven
To elect him to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Wright the player is today all but forgotten
But with regard to fame another claim
Retired from the ball field but still active
He brought to town the great old Scottish game.
A permit from the Boston Parks Commission
Let Wright lay out some holes at Franklin Park
Then on a cold fall day in eighteen ninety
He took along three pals to play ’til dark.
So add the name George Wright to your sports heroes
A pioneer in not one sport but two
The father of the golf game in New England
A double Hall-of-Famer through and through.”