The Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869 were baseball's first openly all-professional team, with ten salaried players. The Cincinnati Base Ball Club formed in 1866 and fielded competitive teams in the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) 1867–1870, a time of a transition that ambitious Cincinnati businessmen and English-born ballplayer Harry Wright shaped as much as anyone. Major League Baseball recognized those events officially by sponsoring a centennial of professional baseball in 1969.
Thanks partly to their on-field success and the continental scope of their tours, the Red Stockings established styles in team uniforms and team nicknames that have some currency even in the 21st century. They also established a particular color, red, as the color of Cincinnati (which continues with the city's current team, the Reds), and they provide the ultimate origin for the use of "Red Sox" in Boston.
After playing four matches that summer, Cincinnati joined the NABBP for 1867 and concluded an agreement to play at the Union Cricket Club grounds (just west of Lincoln Park, a site now occupied by Cincinnati Union Terminal). George Ellard's son says that "a great number of the cricket club members" joined and so "the team was greatly strengthened and interest in baseball gained a new impetus." Plans for a new clubhouse and "more substantical" enclosing fence were approved in April and the commercial basis was approved in June: members of both clubs admitted free to all matches; otherwise "ten cents for home matches and twenty-five cents for foreign matches. Ladies free." (Ellard 23–27).
The team was soon nicknamed "Red Stockings" in reference to the main feature of the uniforms designed by Ellard; long stockings were then a novelty in team uniforms.
Harpers Weekly representation of the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
Harry Wright had migrated from New York in 1866 for a job as "club pro" at the Union Cricket Club. Next year he picked up similar baseball duties, but the lingo is commonly stretched to call him a baseball "manager" from that time. His first team may have been local to a man, but he both developed and imported players to represent the club in competitive play for the 1868 season. The first team won 16 matches with regional opponents, losing only to the touring Nationals from Washington. As for most hosts on that tour, it was a "bad loss" on the scorecard but an instructive one for Cincinnati: the players, the club, the fans, and perhaps the local newspapers. Everyone learned advanced points of play and, from their different perspectives, witnessed the gulf in playing strength.