The Impact of Francis Richter upon the Development of Baseball

Amber Shaw

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Lomax, Sports Studies
University of Georgia

Introduction

This paper analyzes Francis Richter's influence upon the development of Organized Baseball from 1870 to 1926. Essentially, three questions will serve to guide the narrative: how did Francis Richter influence the early development of sports journalism; what was his role in the organization, development, and the promotion of Organized Baseball; and how did his career reflect sportswriters who promoted the baseball as opposed to individual players. Francis Richter was pivotal in developing the sport journalism profession and creating the symbiotic relationship between journalism and Organized Baseball. He was one of the first "insider journalists" who shaped the ideology for professional baseball, making the sport directly relevant to the needs and aspirations of Middle America. The so-called baseball creed promoted the "National Pastime" as the embodiment of America's democratic institution. Despite numerous discrepancies, this view gained widespread acceptance, and it was due primarily by its promoters' (like Richter) ability to portray the game in ways that supplied the kinds of symbols, myths, and legends society requires to bring its members together. He founded the Sporting Life, a weekly magazine devoted to all sports, primarily baseball, and served on the rules committee for several years. As a member of the rules committee, Richter, along with other sportswriters like Henry Chadwick, sought to strike a balance between offense and defense that would make the game exciting to spectators. Moreover, Richter served as a pivotal figure in the closing act of the promotion of baseball.

Methodology

Several newspapers and sporting periodicals were examined, such as the Sporting Life, along with secondary sources relative to the topic such as Harold Seymour’s Baseball: the Early Years, among others, in an attempt to answer the aforementioned questions and to present a balanced and nuanced perspective to illustrate how Richter created the symbiotic relationship between journalism and Organized Baseball. A particular focus will be upon Richter’s influence on other journalists and Organized Baseball by answering the three questions that will guide the narrative. The research regarding the relationship between journalism and baseball has been minimal. While authors such as Seymour and David Q. Voigt briefly mention Richter in their works in chapters about the amalgamation of the American Association and the National League and the 1903 National Agreement, they fail to analyze Richter’s influence upon other journalists, his impact upon Organized Baseball, and his impact as a transitional force in journalism, creating the final chapter in the promotion of the sport. This research regarding Richter has added to our knowledge in terms of understanding the relationship between journalism and baseball, which until now was more stated than corroborated.

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