Philadelphia Baseball Review - Phillies News, Rumors and Analysis
Al Reach founded the Phillies prior to the 1882 season
Al Reach founded the Phillies prior to the 1882 season.
Most historical narratives regarding the founding of the Phillies wrongly simplify how the organization joined the National League and eternalize a false relationship between the club and the Worcester Ruby Legs. 

The Worcester franchise formed in the late 1870s and joined the National League in 1880, replacing the bankrupt Syracuse Stars. The Ruby Legs suffered a similar fate to the Stars in 1882, primarily due to poor financial backing and too small of a population in Worcester to support a Major League club. 

As Worcester floundered through the summer of 1881, baseball pioneer Al Reach was exploring ways to bring another professional franchise to Philadelphia. A former ballplayer himself, Reach played for more than a decade and spent time with the Eckford of Brooklyn and the Philadelphia Athletics before retiring in 1875. With his days as a player coming to an end, Reach turned his focus to his profitable sporting goods business. This combination of newfound wealth and love of the sport ignited Reach's desire to build a new franchise in Philadelphia. 

It's important to note that Philadelphia already had a professional club in the early 1880s with Bill Sharsig's version of the Philadelphia Athletics, a charter member of the newly formed American Association. Sharsig's Athletic franchise was different than the Athletic franchise that represented Philadelphia in 1876 in the National League's debut season; the '76 club failed to complete a season-ending road trip before being contracted after just one season. 

Throughout 1881 Reach engaged in conversations with National League owners about putting a franchise in Philadelphia. Eventually, in December of '81, NL owners approved putting a Reach-owned Philadelphia franchise in the League Alliance, a proving ground for organizations seeking admittance to the NL. 

Reach's Philadelphia team opened the 1882 season with a roster littered with Major League experience, including veterans such as outfielders Mike Moynahan and John Manning and shortstop William McClellan. H.B. Phillips was appointed skipper before the season but resigned before the season opener, only to return a few weeks later before leaving again in July. Reach eventually brought in William Barnie of the independent Brooklyn Atlantic club to finish the season as manager while the club wandered to a 67-66-6 record. 

The club called Recreation Park home and opened the '82 schedule on April 8 with a 3-0 loss to Providence. Aside from the mediocre results on the field, Reach showed that Philadelphia could support a National League franchise. Fellow owners agreed, granting Reach the ability to move his League Alliance club to the NL. 

Here is where it's imperative to understand the distinction between the Worcester franchise and the new Philadelphia franchise. Reach didn't inherit the Ruby Legs but instead was given the open franchise slot created by their dismissal, paving the way for the elevation of Reach's franchise from the League Alliance to the National League. 

Reach's Philadelphia franchise played their first exhibition game as a National League club on April 2, 1883. The Phillies trounced a semi-pro club from Manayunk, 11-0, with hurler John Coleman tossing a no-hitter. The club would finish the spring with a 21-1 record against local amateur and semi-pro competition, the lone blemish coming on April 28 in a 10-3 loss to cross-town rival Athletic at Recreation Park. 

Unfortunately for Reach and Philadelphia's newest professional baseball franchise, their inaugural season in the NL was a disaster. The club endured a 14-game losing streak and won just nine games at home all season en route to a 17-81-1 record. The .173 winning percentage from the '83 campaign remains the worst in franchise history. 

Reach maintained an ownership role with the Philadelphia franchise until 1899 before selling his shares to his business partner John Rogers.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post
Philadelphia Baseball Review - Phillies News, Rumors and Analysis