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Al Spalding (1850-1915) hit over .300 five years in a seven year career with the Boston Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings. Not bad at all--most Baseball players would kill for hitting ability like that. However, his hitting ability is overshadowed by the fact that he won 253 games as a pitcher in those seven years, and the fact that he is also the founder of the world famous Spalding Sporting Goods company.

Back to the beginning, Al Spalding was to the 1860's and 1870's what a player like Mark Prior is today, a pitching phenom. As a 17 year old in 1867 he led his Forest City team past superstar George Wright's touring team in an exhibition game. At 20 he joined the Boston Red Stockings of what is regarded by most as the first true professional league, the National Association, and led them to four of the league's five pennants, all the while leading the league in wins five times and ERA twice. In 1875 he went an incredible 55-5, and he twice led the league in saves, not then an official statistic.

He continued his dominance with the White Stockings of the National League, leading the league in wins with 47 and placing fifth in ERA as his team won the pennant. The next year, however, he played mostly first base (as far as I know, the reason is unknown), as well as continuing as the manager. In 1878 he left that position as well and played in one game as a first baseman, retiring to better run his new business, A.G. Spalding & Brothers. He would return to the team, however, in 1882 and through 1891, as the team's president.

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Sources: www.baseballreference.com, www.baseballlibrary.com, www.hallowedground.org

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