A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Al Reach

Al Reach while playing with the Athletic of Philadelphia

Al Reach while playing with the Athletic of Philadelphia

1. Alfred James Reach was born in London in 1840, but came to the US as a child. He lived in New York.

2. Between 1861 and 1864 he played second base for the Eckford of Brooklyn, one of the three premier Brooklyn teams of the era (the Atlantic and Excelsior were the others).

3. In 1865 he joined the Athletic of Philadelphia as their second baseman. He was paid $25 for “expenses” when he joined the Athletic. Sources speculate that he was the first professional player (others choose different players as the first professional).

4. He led the National Association of Base Ball Players in runs scored in 1868 and finished second in 1867.

5. In 1871, the initial year of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, he hit .353 and helped lead the Athletic to the first championship.

6. His career tailed off from there, ending after 1875 with a .247 average, no home runs, 89 runs scored, and an OPS+ of 73.

7. In 1874, while still active, he opened a sporting goods store. By 1883 it was the largest sporting goods store in the US.

8. In 1883 the Worcester, Massachusetts team moved to Philadelphia. Reach purchased the team (now the Phillies) and ran it through 1899. In 1890 he served as manager for 11 games (he went 4-7).

9. He became a millionaire and sold his firm to the A.J. Spaulding Co. in 1892. Spaulding ran both companies, but kept the name of each, thus managing to monopolize the sporting goods world while not running afoul of the anti-trust laws being touted at the time.

10. After 1900, the company produced the official American League baseball while the Spaulding Company produced the official National League ball. Both were made by the same people in the same factory.

11. The Reach Guide was the official publication for the American Association from 1883 through 1892 (when the Association folded), then was semi-official until 1902, when it became the official American League publication. It remained official through 1939. Reach’s company published the Guide until 1927 when Wright and Ditson (the company run by former star and Al Reach opponent, George Wright) took up publication.

12. Al Reach’s brother Bob played a couple of years in the National Association, didn’t do much, but did invent an improved catcher’s mask that Reach marketed. Reach’s son George helped Ben and Daniel Shibe perfect the modern cork-centered baseball.

13. Al Reach died in New Jersey in 1928. In 2012, he appeared on the Veteran’s Committee Hall of Fame ballot. He was not elected.

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2 Responses to “A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Al Reach”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I particularly liked #10, a wonderful tidbit of info I hadn’t been aware of before. Very creative in an underhanded way.
    As for the Veteran’s Committee, you have to wonder by what criteria he “failed” in their eyes to qualify for membership in the HOF, assuming they even knew who the hell he was.
    Nicely done,

  2. W.k. kortas Says:

    Given how long the Reach Guide was published–and how respected the publication was–it’s a mystery to me why he isn’t in the Hall.

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