A Boston Red Sox fan fails at cricket and explores the Red Sox English connection and its Boston history
English cricket. This is not about Genus Gryllus, but the possible connection of that bizarre (to Americans) game the English call cricket. Baseball as a term has been traced back to 18th century England and Massachusetts when the term first appeared in writing. As the year’s progressed baseball took root in America and cricket and/or rounders remained the domain of England and the expanding empire. Same family tree.
A yearly trip for myself and my spouse – The Lovely Cynthia – is to Jamaica, where cricket is still a significant sport. On our last trip, I had the opportunity to “give it a go” as my host or sponsor would state. I did attempt to hit with what passes for a bat and failed miserably. So much for cricket, but not for the connection to baseball, the Boston Red Sox and myself.
"“The earliest mentions that we can find of baseball by old timers take you back to west-central Massachusetts in the 1750s, ’40s and in one citation 1735. The game has no record in the cities until, at the very earliest, 1805.” – John Thorn."
Andre Rodgers was a reasonably respectable infielder for the Giants in the late 1950s who had a unique background for baseball – he never played as a youth – yet became a major league player. Rodgers was born and raised in Nassau and was quite proficient at cricket and decided to “give it a go” with baseball and sought a tryout with the Giants. Rodgers’s initial failure resulted in still getting a shot in the minors and eventually into MLB and a moderately successful career.
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Rodgers’s background was noted in various columns and that exerted an influence on the youthful me resulting in my exploration of the history of baseball. That cricket connection certainly got my 12-year-old radar’s attention and I realized there was some significant depth to the history of baseball. Accompany that with having adult exposure via “Old Timers” to the Deadball era and town ball that resulted in a lifelong passion for baseball history.
Being an English game and baseball having English roots just how many Englishmen have played for the Red Sox? The list is relatively simple to find and the list is also quite short so here is a summary of the few who “gave it a go.” But first will be a short bio on two of the most renowned players born in England to play in the United States.
Harry Wright may click with some, but for most it is a name without recognition. I wrote about Wright being the most successful manager in Boston history only it was with the National League entry since the American League was decades away.
A son of a cricketer Wright eventually made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Born in Sheffield, the family immigrated to America when Wright was a toddler. His father, Samuel, found employment with the St. George Cricket Club in New York and that was the beginning of Harry’s exposure to cricket and baseball.
An original member of the famed 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings that were undefeated. The nucleus of the team and the name were carried over to Boston in 1871 as the National League (Association) was formed and Wright managed, played the outfield and pitched.
Al Reach was born in London in 1840 and became a noted player in the New York area in the 1860s. Reach was a member of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1871 and that team was the first to win a championship in the National Association. Reach retired as a player in 1875 at the age of 35 and that started his second and more notable baseball career.
Reach was certainly not done with baseball as he helped found the Philadelphia Phillies and served as team president for several years. Reach also started the highly successful Reach Sporting Goods Company that was eventually sold to Spaulding.
Now for the Red Sox contingent.
Walter Carlisle was born in Yorkshire in 1881 and had a very brief career that was entirely with the Boston Americans of 1908. The stat line shows a single hit in 10 at bats for a career average of .100. Carlisle, however, was not done with baseball and remained active in the minor leagues until 1923.
The minor league stats are impressive as Carlisle put in 18 seasons in the minors playing 2286 games for the right-handed hitting and throwing Carlisle. Carlisle died in California in 1945.
Being a member of the first Boston Red Sox team and a member of the first World Series champions is something special and Hobe Ferris has such an honor. Ferris played in the majors for nine years of which seven were with Boston.
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Born in 1874 in Whiltshire, the right-handed hitting and throwing infielder finished with a slash line of .239/.265/.341 with 40 home runs and 550 RBI. Ferris contributed a .290 average and five RBI in the 1903 series.
Ferris moved to the minors after his major league career stalled and was on three consecutive Minneapolis Millers championship teams before moving on to St. Paul and finishing up his career with Wilkes-Barre.
Ferris does have one distinction and that is the lowest OBP (.265) of any player with at least 5,000 plate appearances.
Al Shaw has the distinction of playing for both Boston teams. A right-handed hitting and throwing catcher-first baseman Shaw did not reach the majors until he was 28-years-old – not that unusual in the early days of baseball. “Shoddy” – as he was nicknamed – finished with a career slash of .200/.267/.240 with a lone home run and 32 RBI in 511 plate appearances.
There is one player active who was born in England and that is Chris Reed who appeared in two games for Miami last season. Reed, a 25-year-old left-handed pitcher, was a former first round selection of the Dodgers who eventually traded Reed to the Marlins.
Reed, the latest addition to the England list, and that now brings the total to 34.
Sources: Baseball Almanac/Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball/Retrosheet.org/Baseball-Reference.com/ Edwin of St.James Parrish