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Baseball in Ohio: Exploring the Origins of Professional Baseball & Masonic Players

By July 29, 2021No Comments

Summer months in the United States mean baseball. Did you know that Ohio is the birthplace of professional baseball in the United States? On June 1, 1869, Cincinnati became the first city to field an entire team of professional baseball players that would be paid to play a game. The Cincinnati Red Stockings crushed the amateur Mansfield Independents with an unreal score of  48 to 14 (sounds more like a Bengals score!) The professional club would go on to amass 57 straight victories. Today, we know the team as the Cincinnati Reds, and professional baseball has expanded into a multi-million dollar industry and beloved American sport. Join us in this week’s blog as we commemorate this pastime that originated in the great state of Ohio and highlight famous Masonic ball players. 

Trivia : Can you name the 1975 Reds, known as the Big Red Machine, starting line? See the end of the blog for the answer.

Standing outside The Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH, Baseball Stadium
Standing outside The Great American Ball Park Stadium, Cincinnati, OH

The Origins of Professional Baseball

Back in 1869, a group of 10 salaried players became the first professional baseball team in the United States. Before these men stepped forward, gloveless hands and all, it was the formation of the Cincinnati Baseball Club in 1866 that sparked the beginning of professional baseball. The NABBP (National Association of Base Ball Players) was an organization with numerous amateur baseball clubs that expanded baseball to a national level. Clubs would play against one another, and certain star players began to draw larger crowds. 

Players like James Creighton, who historians label as one of the game’s first “superstars” despite his amateur status, were starting to indirectly or covertly receive compensation for playing. As interest in the clubs expanded, so did the desire to implement monetized winnings. Teams were starting to be accused of splitting the earnings from the Gate receipts. Addressing this growing occurrence and to restore integrity to the game, the NABBP developed a “professional” category enabling clubs to play for profit. 

This is when the Cincinnati Red Stockings took the field. They were the first Club to declare themselves as openly professional, and began recruiting the best players. For the 1869 season, there were 12 professional clubs. On the team during this legendary year, George and Harry Wright ruled the ball field. The Red Stockings went undefeated that year and became the first Big Red Machine. (Can you name the 1975 Reds, known as the Big Red Machine, starting line? See the end of the blog for the answer.)

A Vintage Team, a Modern Legacy

Professional baseball has evolved significantly since the days of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, but you can still step back in time. You can catch a throw-back version of the Red Stockings, complete with 1869 rules and with era-appropriate equipment. You can still attend events of this vintage team in Ohio! Check out the 2021 schedule to explore a combination of free and admission-required events. With the support of this organization, the rich history of Ohio baseball lives on.

Vintage 1869 Cincinnati Redstocking team playing a baseball game in Ohio Caption: Vintage 1869 Cincinnati Redstocking team in action.
Vintage 1869 Cincinnati Redstocking team in action.

Freemasons and Professional Baseball

Early baseball shares deep roots in Ohio and Freemasonry. Brother Denton True “Cy” Young was an American Major League Baseball pitcher in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was born in Gilmore, Ohio, supporting his family’s farm before committing to a professional career in MLB. Brother Cy pitched for five teams during his 21-year baseball career (1890–1911). His career began with the Cleveland Spiders and would end with the Boston Rustlers.  In his 31 years in MLB, Young would play 12 seasons in Ohio as a member of the Spiders or, late in his career, the Cleveland Naps.

Professional Baseball Pitcher, Cy Young, Pitching for the Cleveland Naps in 1911
Brother Cy Young, legendary American Baseball player pitching for the Cleveland Naps in 1911

Young won an unthinkable 511 games, almost 100 more than any other pitcher in history. In 1937, Young was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 1956 the Cy Young Award was established in his honor to recognize the best pitcher in each league for each season. He was viewed as a connection between the origins and roots of American baseball, to what we know and love about baseball today. Brother Cy Young was a member of Mystic Tie Lodge No. 194 in Dennison, Ohio. He was raised on February 29, 1904.

TRIVIA ANSWER: The “Great Eight” Cincinnati Reds lineup was considered by many second only to the historic “Murderers Row” 1927 Yankees. The Reds 1975 World Series lineup featured (arguably) four Hall of Famers at the top of the line up: Pete Rose (3B), Joe Morgan (2B), Johnny Bench (C) , Tony Perez (LF), Dave Concepcion (SS), Ken Griffey (RF), Cesar Geronimo (CF), George Foster (LF).