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They Played the Game
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Moses Fleetwood Walker
(1884)
"Fleet" Walker was the first American black player in major league history. He joined the Northwestern League's Toledo Blue Stockings as a catcher in 1883, and was still with Toledo in 1884 when the team joined the American Association. During that season Walker's brother Welday also played for the Blue Stockings. But the Walkers were gone in 1885 because the team owners folded under pressure by Cap Anson and other white players to ban blacks from the majors. Fleet Walker went on to play for Newark of the International League, where he often joined black pitcher George Stovey, the league's top hurler in the mid-1880s, as baseball's first black battery.
John Montgomery Ward
(1878-94)
A Hall of Famer, Ward was a graduate of Columbia Law School who was one of the founders of the Brotherhood of Progessional Base Ball Players,  which was created to fight the reserve clause. He played for the Providence Grays and the New York Giants, among other clubs, and was proficient as an infielder, an outfielder, and as a pitcher (a career 2.49 ERA). Ward is the only player in major league history to have won more than 150 games as pitcher while accumulating more than 2,000 hits as a batter. According to Joe Tinker, Ward was "a star outfielder, a brilliant infielder, and a better pitcher than [Old Hoss] Radbourn. And he was one of the best baserunners who ever lived."
Mickey Welch
(1880-92)
"Smiling" Mickey from Brooklyn, a Hall of Famer, won 307 games in a 13-year career, many of them for the New York Giants and ranks sixth all-time for complete games, with 525. One of his accomplishments was to win both parts of a July 4, 1881 doubleheader.
Perry Werden
(1884-97)
In 1895, while playing for Minneapolis of the Western League (the precursor to the American League, Werden hit 45 home runs, a record until Babe Ruth came along. Werden was originally a pitcher -- he went 12-1 in 1884 -- but an injury to his arm forced his move to first base.
Harry Wheeler
(1878-84)
The only player in history to play for five different major league teams in one season (1884), the outfielder played five games with the AA's St. Louis Browns, fourteen games with the Kansas City Unions, and twenty games with the UA's Chicago Browns before the franchise moved to Pittsburgh (where he played in 17 games). He ended up with 17 games for the Baltimore Unions. His season BA was .244.
Deacon White
(1871-90)
White batted .300 or better in thirteen of his twenty seasons in the majors. He was the first player to challenge the reserve clause, and also the player who proved that a group of Harvard professors who claimed the curveball was an optical illusion were wrong. His real name was James, but his teammates called him "Deacon" because he didn't smoke, drink or gamble.
BORN 12.7.1847, Caton, NY     .312, 23, 977
Jim Whitney
(1881-90)
In 1881, his rookie year with the Boston Red Stockings, Whitney led the NL in both wins (31) and losses (33) -- a feat not duplicated until Phil Niekro's 1979 season. The next year Whitney, nicknamed "Grasshopper", became the first pitcher to make the league's top five hitters list. He batted .323 that year.
Hoyt Wilhelm
(1952-72)
Wilhelm -- one of the game's most famous knuckleball pitchers -- hit a home run in his first-ever major league at-bat. And he never hit another one in his 23-year career.
Ned Williamson
(1878-90)
Williamson set the single-season record for homers in 1884 when he hit 27 for the Chicago White Stockings, a record that stood until 1919, when Babe Ruth hit 29. Strangely enough, Williamson only managed three home runs in 1885.
Snake Wiltse
(1901-03)
Pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901, Wiltse set a ML record for a pitcher with ten total bases during a game on August 10, 1901. He hit two doubles and two triples that day, making him one of just three pitchers to collect four extra-base hits in a game.
BORN 12.5.1871, Bouckville, NY     31-68, 5.40
Jimmy Wood
(1871-75
This National Association player-manager is credited with inventing spring training when he took the Chicago White Stockings to New Orleans prior to the 1871 season.
BORN 5.8.71, Canada
George Wright
(1871-82)
Wright played shortstop for the 1869 Cincinnati Reds, who were undefeated in 130 consecutive games. He helped launch the Union Association in 1884, established a sporting goods business, and was influential in the creation of the Hall of Fame -- into which he was inducted.
BORN 1.28.1847     .302, 11, 330     Hall of Fame 1937
Harry Wright
(1871-93
Wright (a Hall of Famer) played for the Knickerbockers -- the first organized baseball team -- and became the manager of the first all-professional club, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. The Red Stockings won 65 games and lost none in that year, and 27 more in 1870 until suffering a loss at the hands of the Brooklyn Atlantics. The team disbanded after its 92-game winning streak ended. Wright moved it to Boston. He was responsible for a number of innovations -- hand signals, batting practice, and the introduction of knickers as part of a ballplayer's uniform. He was also involved in the design of a face mask for catchers.