According to the CANA Cremation Statistics Report of 2011, more than two in five people who die in the United States are cremated, a number that’s rising. We crossed 30% for the first time in 2004, 20% for the first time in 1994, 10% for the first time in 1981, and 5% for the first time in 1973. I bring this up because today’s inductee into the Hall of Miller and Eric, Al Spalding, a man who died in 1915, was cremated.
How rare was that? First, it’s rare enough that CANA doesn’t have great numbers on it. But extrapolating what they have, Spalding was one of about 13,000 Americans in 1915 to choose cremation. And he is one of ten men in the Baseball Hall of Fame to choose cremation. They are Al Barlick (1995), Roy Campanella (1993), Mickey Cochrane (1962), Larry Doby (2003), Bob Lemon (2000), Phil Rizzuto (2007), Bill Veeck (1986), and Early Wynn (1999). I bring this up for no reason other than I find it fascinating.
Al Spalding was a pretty great pitcher in the game’s early days. In fact, he led the National Association in wins in every year of their existence, and he was the NL’s win leader in their first year. To help put in perspective how great he was, for pitchers with a fifth best season as great as Spalding’s, only he and Hippo Vaughn are outside the HoME. Until now. Of course, it’s not Spalding’s pitching prowess that gets him enshrined into the Hall of Miller and Eric.
When William Hulbert conceived of the National League, he knew he needed players, and Spalding, who was like Hulbert and against drinking and gambling, was one of the first. Additionally, Spalding became White Stockings President in 1882, deserves tremendous credit for starting spring training in 1886, and sponsored a world barnstorming tour in 1888. He also fought against history, calling together the Mills Commission, the group who determined that Union general Abner Doubleday invented baseball. And he helped to take down one of the first player unions when he used strong-arm tactics to help bring Monte Ward’s Players’ League to a close after just one year.
However, these accomplishments, such as they were, were only part of the story. Spalding opened a sporting goods store with his brother as his professional career developed, something they grew and grew. Showing the acumen of many great business leaders, he diversified, founding a “Baseball Guide” and publishing the first ever baseball rules. The Guide became widely read; the rules said only his baseballs could be used. He was one of the first great pitchers to wear a glove, a Spalding glove. Today, 140 years after its opening, the company is still thriving.
Overall, Spalding was a force of nature. As a player, owner, sporting goods magnate, promoter of the game, or a man looking to create baseball mythology. It’s his overall and varied contribution to the game that makes Albert Goodwill Spalding the tenth man to enter the Pioneer and Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Next week, we’ll reveal out eleventh inductee.