Grave Story: Charlie Gould (1847-1917)


Here lies Charlie Gould, the first baseman on the renowned 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings team and the first-ever manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Gould played for the Boston Red Stockings (1871-72), Baltimore Canaries (1874) and New Haven Elm Citys (1875), all of the National Association, and the Cincinnati Reds (1876-77). He also managed in New Haven and Cincinnati, and his managerial career is one for the record books — and not in a good way.

Charlies Harvey Gould was born in Cincinnati on August 21, 1847. He was fourth-oldest child of George W. and Elizabeth (Fish) Gould, who may have had as many as six children survive to adulthood. The 1850 census lists John, George Jr., Emeline, Charles and a 1-year-old boy whose name starts with K but is partially scratched out. Kosteath T. perhaps? If you look at the 1870 census, John, George Jr. and Charles are all still living with their parents, along with two additional daughters, 18-year-old Rachael and 16-year-old Mollie. Then there is an Emma Fonda (Emeline’s married name, perhaps), who had two children of her own. Add in 71-year-old Mary Gould and an 18-year-old domestic servant named Rosana Martin, and the Gould house was quite full.

Charlie Gould’s grave market in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati.

George Sr. was a produce dealer, and apparently older sons George and John followed him into the business. That same 1870 census lists them all as merchants. Charles, however, was employed as a base ball player. More than just any base ball player, he was part of one of the most famous teams in the country.

Baseball got its start on the East Coast, and by the 1860s, the best teams were in New York, with tough competition in Philadelphia and Boston as well. There were good Midwestern teams in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest, but when the subject of notable mid-19th Century baseball comes up, you mostly hear about the Knickerbockers, the Atlantics, the Excelsiors, the Eckfords, the Athletics – all East Coast teams.

Cincinnati’s first baseball team goes back to 1860, according to historian Lee Allen. The Cincinnati Red Stockings were formed in 1866 as an amateur club, and included city luminaries like Alfred Goshorn, Aaron B. Champion and Henry Tilden. Around the same time, Harry Wright, a future Hall of Famer, was brought to Cincinnati to join the city’s cricket team. Wright was active in the New York baseball scene (he was a Knickerbocker after some of the founders like Alexander Cartwright departed), and it didn’t take long before his love of baseball tied him to the Red Stockings.

By 1869, the Red Stockings had become a professional team – in reality if not in name. Wright had brought in a slew of players from the East Coast, including his brother George. The Wrights came from New York City, as did Fred Waterman and Asa Brainard. Andy Leonard and Charlie Sweasy were from New Jersey; Doug Allison was from Philadelphia and Cal McVey was from Indianapolis. Because the idea of a professional ballplayer was still a touchy subject, they were given “jobs,” in the broadest sense of the term. This wasn’t a new thing, as ballplayers were being paid overtly or under the table since Jim Creighton in the early 1860s, and probably earlier than that.

Harry Wright was listed as a jeweler with a $1,200 salary, though it’s questionable how much jewelry-making he actually did. And in the middle of this All-Star roster was a “bookkeeper” named Charles H. Gould, for $800. He was the only native Cincinnatian on the Cincinnati Red Stockings. He was just 21 years old, but he was a veteran ballplayer by then.

A Dr. Frank Sage gave an interview in 1912 and said that Gould, while attending First Intermediate School as a child, became known as a great player of a game called “crack-about.” The game, which pre-dates baseball’s arrival in Cincinnati, consisted of throwing a hard rubber ball at another player. Most people dodged the ball, which could leave a walnut-sized bruise if it hit you. Gould, explained Dr. Sage, stayed put and caught the ball. He was a fledgling first baseman before he’d ever heard of baseball!

A lithograph of the 1969 Cincinnati Reds, with Gould being on the bottom right.

Alfred Spink, founder of The Sporting News, puts Gould on a team called the Buckeye Baseball Club in 1863. The number of teams increased as the sport grew in popularity, and Gould became a top first baseman. He was on the Red Stockings as early as 1867, along with the likes of Harry Wright, Waterman, Brainard and Allison. The 1868 Red Stockings had a record of 42-7, which placed it among the top clubs in the country. Following the end of the season, Wright cut all the local players to bring in his hired guns, with the exception of Gould.

The 1869 Reds’ claim as the first professional team is a little exaggerated, but the fact that they toured the United States from one coast to the other, took on all comers and won every game they played — 57 by some count, 65 by others — is record book worthy. The team didn’t lose a game until they faced the Atlantics at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn on June 14, 1870. Cincinnati was leading 7-5 going into the last inning. Charley Smith of the Atlantics singled, and when right fielder McVey tried to field Joe Start’s base hit, a fan jumped out of the crowd and onto his back – and the play continued! Smith scored, and Start reached third base. Bob Ferguson then tied the score with a base hit to right. The next batter, George Zettlein, hit a hard grounder to Gould, who threw to second base to force the runner. His throw, unfortunately, sailed over the head of second baseman Sweasy, and Ferguson dashed home to put the Atlantics on top for good.

The loss knocked all the momentum from the Red Stockings. They lost 6 games in 1870, and by the winter, the team was disbanded due to a lack of fan interest and profits. Gould headed to Boston with the Wrights and McVey, and they all were a part of the Boston Red Stockings team that inaugurated the National Association in 1871.

It’s hard to gauge just how good Gould was for the Red Stockings. I was unable to find statistics of the 1869 or ’70 team, but they wouldn’t mean much even if I had. The team played primarily amateur clubs of varying degrees of talent; considering the scores of some of them (they beat the Cream City of Milwaukee 85-7 and the Buckeye of Cincinnati 103-8), Gould and the others probably had video game-like batting averages. He was considered a good-fielding first baseman, but throwing may have been a weak spot with him. A few weeks before the Atlantics loss, Gould reportedly threw another ball so wildly that it rolled to a stop among the horse carriages that were parked near the field.

In 1871, Gould batted .285 for Boston, which sounds pretty good, but three of his teammates hit over .400. He did hit 2 of the club’s 3 home runs (pitcher Al Spalding had the other) and drove in 32 runs. His batting average fell to .255 in 1872, but he did lead the NA with 8 triples. Baseball Reference lists his first base fielding percentage in 1872 as.933, or a little above league average. Spink, in his 1910 book The National Game, gives him a .970 percentage, topping Wes Fisler’s mark of .961 in 1871. “Gould’s idea of playing first base was standing very close to the bag, attending to the throws that came within reach, and allowing the second baseman to cover the territory lying between the first and second bag,” Spink wrote. That style was pretty standard for first basemen until Charlie Comiskey began playing off the base in the 1880s with St. Louis.

The Red Stockings finished first with a record of 39-8-1. It was reported in August that the entire team would be back for 1872, “with the exceptions of Charlie Gould and [Fraley] Rogers, both of whom close their connection with base ball, as a profession, with the present season.”

Gould did not play professional ball in 1873, but his social calendar was full. He married Laura Weatherby around this time. They had twin girls in 1874, though only one, Laura, survived. Other children included Morton (1876), Florence (1880) and Charles Frederick (1888). He returned to the NA in 1874 with the Baltimore Canaries, where he was reunited with ex-Red Stockings Brainard and Sweasy, as well as Harry Deane, a substitute on the 1870 squad. The 26-year-old hit .226 in 33 games, with 6 doubles as his only extra-base hits.

Gould joined the New Haven team, a new entry to the National Association, in 1875. He managed the team as well as played first base. As a ballplayer, he fared pretty well, with a .266/.273/.321 slash line and a 116 OPS+. As a manager, he only won 2 of 23 games. It was reported on June 7 that, “Charles Gould has been retired from the New Haven nine, and [Jumbo] Latham, formerly of the Bostons, will act as captain and play first base.” Latham didn’t fare any better and didn’t finish out the season as manager either. New Haven finished 7-40 under three managers in its only year of existence. Gould umpired for a handful of NA games after leaving the New Haven team.

The National League began operations in 1876, as the baseball magnates of the time were determined to run a league better than the slipshod way the National Association had been. Gould returned to Cincinnati to act as the player-manager for the new Reds. He guided the team to a 9-56 record in his only season at the helm, but he does get credit for being the first manager ever of the National League’s Cincinnati Red Stockings. No, the unbeaten 1869 squad is not considered part of the current franchise’s history, no matter how much the team would love to tell you that they are baseball’s first professional team.

Cincinnati had a poor team, but Gould had a pretty good year as a hitter. Playing in a career high 61 games (The NL seasons were a bit longer than the NA ones), he batted .252 with 11 RBIs and 27 runs scored. He also brought back some good memories for Cincinnati fans. On April 27, he was the margin of victory in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Browns. He first hit an RBI double and later came to bat with the bases loaded. He singled in two runs and then attempted to steal second base, deliberately getting caught in a rundown long enough for another run to score. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that he left the field to the fans cheering his name.

“The recollections of olden days, when Gould never failed to bring men home when they were on bases before him, came flashing across the minds of almost everyone present,” the paper wrote. It referenced a Red Stockings game when Gould came to bat against the Unions with the bases loaded and his team down three. With 2 outs and 2 strikes on him, he hit a home run that gave the Red Stockings a 1-run win.

(Note: The Red Stockings beat the Unions of Morrisania 13-12 on August 25, 1868. If Charlie Gould ever hit a 2-out, 2-strike, game-winning grand slam homer, it would be that game.)

Gould was relieved of his duties as team manager/captain for 1877, so he spent his final season in pro ball just as a player. He hit .275 in 24 games for the Reds in 1877, with 13 RBIs. He was 29 years old when he left pro ball, but he had been playing it for more than a dozen years.

In 6 seasons of professional ball, Gould slashed .257/.272/.327, with 248 hits in 221 games. He had 37 doubles, 12 triples and 2 home runs, driving in 110 runs and scoring 138 times. He had a lifetime .934 fielding percentage at first base, which is a little below league average. He also played in the outfield for 5 games in his career, caught twice (and demonstrated he was not a catcher, with a .571 fielding percentage) and even pitched twice for the 1876 Reds. He allowed 9 runs on 10 hits in 4-1/3 innings, but this being 1876, none of the runs were earned.

As a manager, he had a 11-77 record for a .125 winning percentage. That is the worst win-loss record for anyone who managed more than 35 games at the major-league level.

Cincinnati Reds managers Bucky Walters, Bill McKechnie, Luke Sewell and Heinie Groh at the unveiling of CHarlie Gould’s grave marker on June 19, 1951. Also there are Gould’s great-grandsons Wesley and Warren Wellborn. Source: The Sporting News, June 27, 1951.

Gould held various jobs throughout the rest of his life. He was a groundskeeper for the Cincinnati ballclub for a time and then oversaw finances – the St. Louis Herald called him a “change catcher.” According to historian Allen, he also worked as a clerk in the Cincinnati Police Department, a conductor on Car 612 of the Fairmont Electric Street Car Line and a pullman conductor on a Cincinnati-to-New Orleans train. He stepped on a playing field for what is believed to be the last time on April 13, 1896. He joined the 1882 Cincinnati Reds alumni to face the 1896 Reds in an event to honor the late Harry Wright. Though he’d been retired for nearly 20 years, “played pretty fair ball, everything considered,” reported The Cincinnati Enquirer. He singled in 4 at-bats and had an error in 7 chances in the field, as the ’96 Reds won 7-2.

Charlie Gould died on April 9, 1917, in the home of his son, Charles, in Flushing, N.Y. The official cause of death was an arterio-sclerosis fracture of a femur caused by a fall to the floor. He was 69 years old. Gould’s death barely made a ripple in baseball news, even though he was one of the last surviving members of a renowned baseball team. Gould was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. His grave was unmarked until 1951, when Reds general manager/president Warren Giles learned about it and had a proper marker installed to commemorate his franchise’s the first manager. The ceremony was attended by Reds manager Luke Sewell, as well as past managers Bill McKechnie, Bucky Walters and Heinie Groh and two of Gould’s great-grandsons. The marker was dedicated on June 19, 1951, the day that baseball celebrated the 75th anniversary of the National League.

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