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Spalding Baseball Day

Spalding Baseball Day celebrates and pays tribute to Albert Goodwill Spalding, commonly known as Al Spalding, who was born on today's date in 1850, in Byron, Illinois. Spalding was an American professional baseball pitcher, a baseball owner, and the co-founder, manager, and executive of the Spalding sporting goods company. He also was the first baseball player of note to use a fielding glove, when he began protecting his hand with one in 1877.

Spalding started his baseball playing days in 1865 when he joined the Rockford Pioneers, a youth team. He played amateur ball for a handful of years before attracting the attention of professional ball clubs, who gave him monetary offers. But he followed the wishes of his widowed mother, who wanted him to go into business, by instead working in Chicago at a wholesale grocery and then at an insurance company, before working in Rockford as a bookkeeper at a newspaper and then at an insurance agency again. None of these pursuits produced much success.

Spalding turned his attention back to baseball, first playing professionally for the Chicago Excelsiors. After the first professional baseball association was formed in 1871, he joined the Boston Red Stockings—the team that has been known as the Atlanta Braves since 1966. Spalding played with the Red Stockings for five years and played his final two seasons with the Chicago White Stockings—the team that has been known as the Chicago Cubs since the early twentieth century. With Spalding both managing and pitching, the White Stockings won the National League championship in 1876.

When Spalding retired in 1878, after seven seasons, he had led the league in pitching victories for each of the six seasons he had been a regular pitcher. That same year, Spalding and his brother, James Walter Spalding, opened A.G. Spalding & Bros., a sporting goods store. The company received the rights to produce the official baseball for the National League, and would continue to produce them for almost a century. A.G. Spalding & Bros. would grow over its first quarter century, and by 1901 it was a chain store with 14 locations. It began offering a catalog to other retailers in 1899.

From 1882 to 1891, Spalding was president of the Chicago White Stockings and led them to three pennant wins. Spalding instituted reforms to get rid of gambling, restrict drinking, and prevent players from colluding. Following his reforms, he wanted to showcase baseball to the world, and went with the Chicago White Stockings and the National League All-Stars to 14 different countries on 5 continents.

In 1878, Spalding published Spalding's Official Baseball Guide, which was published annually from 1880 into the 1940s. In 1911, Spalding published America's National Game, which is regarded as the first scholarly account of baseball's history. Spalding died in 1915, but his legacy lives on. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, and is celebrated today with Spalding Baseball Day.

How to Observe Spalding Baseball Day

A few ways you could celebrate and pay tribute to Albert Spalding are to:

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