On March 15, 1869, Cincinnati attorney Aaron Champion hires former cricket player Harry Wright to organize, manage and play for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who become the first professional baseball team. The organization of the club comes shortly after the National Association of Baseball Players, which had previously banned the payment of players, allows open professionalism after the close of the 1868 season.
In 1869, the Red Stockings finished the season with a 57-0 record—64-0 with exhibitions included. Baseball was still in the underhand-pitch iteration of the sport, so the team routinely scored dozens of runs in games. The Red Stockings defeated the Buckeyes of Cincinnati, 103-8.
Wright, given roughly $10,000 to assemble the best team money could buy, signed his younger brother, George, to a team-high $1,400 salary. George, a shortstop who was considered to be the best baseball player, was well worth the investment as he reportedly hit .630 with 49 home runs and averaged six runs per game.
In addition to managing, Harry Wright played center field and pitched. He was the second-highest-paid player on the roster with a $1,200 salary. Known as the “Father of Professional Baseball,” Harry was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953. George was inducted in 1937.
"This did not just make the city famous, it made baseball famous," Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn said of the Red Stockings’ impact.