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Albert Spalding

Born:   1850, Byron, IL
Died:   1915, San Diego, CA

Did You Know?

Spalding was appointed United States Commissioner by President William McKinley at the 1900 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

Sporting Goods Stores

Baseball great A.G. Spalding opened his sporting goods store to produce and sell the official National League baseball. A tireless ambassador for baseball, he cleaned up corruption and earned worldwide exposure.

Business Experience
Albert G. Spalding was an entrepreneur in the sporting goods business as well as an athlete. Born in 1850 in Byron, Illinois, Spalding became a talented baseball pitcher and a savvy businessman. In 1865, he began playing competitively with a youth team, the Rockford Pioneers. He spent another two years on an amateur men's team before attracting offers of up to $2,500 a year from professional ball clubs in Washington, Cleveland, and New York. But his mother, a widow, wanted Spalding to have business experience. So he found work in Chicago at a wholesale grocery and an insurance company, both of which subsequently failed. Returning to Rockford, he became a bookkeeper for a newspaper and an insurance agency, both of which went under the next year. Although Spalding wasn't responsible for the failure of these businesses, it did inspire him to defy his mother and pursue a baseball career.

Play Ball
Spalding was first hired to play professionally for the Chicago Excelsiors for $40 a week. Following the formation of the first professional association in 1871, Spalding joined the Boston Red Stockings, with whom he played for five years. He completed his career with the Chicago White Stockings, managing the team and pitching 47 games as the club captured the first-ever National League pennant. During each of his six professional seasons, he was the sole pitcher on each of his teams and led the league in pitching victories.

Sporting Goods
Retired from the game in 1876, Spalding and his brother, J. Walter Spalding, obtained the right to produce the official National League baseball, which they would continue to produce for the next 100 years. The same year they opened A. G. Spalding & Bros., the Chicago sporting goods store that would grow into a chain over the next 25 years. In 1899, the company allowed other retailers to order directly from the their catalog. The new policy mandated quality, fixed retail prices, a fair profit to retailers, and consumer satisfaction. By 1901, the chain had grown from three to 14 stores. "Quality First" became the organization's slogan.

Baseball Ambassador
While at the helm of his sporting goods business, Spalding also headed up the Chicago White Stockings from 1882 to 1891, leading the club to three pennants. But Spalding did not like what he saw on the field. He worked to reform baseball, forbidding gambling, making drinking taboo, and preventing collusion among players. By 1888, Spalding had restored the shine to America's game and was ready to show it off to the world. He organized a promotional tour for his Chicago White Stockings and National League All-Stars, visiting five continents and 14 different countries in 1889.

America's National Game
In 1911, Spalding published America's National Game, which many consider the first scholarly account of the history of baseball. He died four years later. In 1939, he was elected posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which recognized him as an "organizational genius of baseball's pioneer days."

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