Harry Wright played with his father at the St George's Cricket Club but he became acquainted with baseball early on at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, home to both St George and the Knickerbockers, one of the first baseball clubs. He would play baseball for the Knickerbockers and the New York Gothams, In 1866 he moved to Cincinnati to play for the Union Cricket Club, but a year later he was playing baseball again. He became the manager and center-fielder for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional baseball team in America. The team, bolstered by stars including his younger brother George Wright at shortstop, went on an 84-game winning streak. On June 14th 1870, the streak game to an end in front of 20,000 people at Brooklyn's Capitoline Grounds when the Red Stockings lost to the Atlantics 8-7 in ten innings. The score was tied 5-5 after 9 and by the rules of the time could have ended in a tie; but Harry Wright asked to continue.
The Red Stockings would fold in 1871 due to the expense of maintaining baseball's first all-professional club. However, the nickname of the Cincinnati Reds is an homage to the team Wright managed. Wright then went to Boston, and managed the newly formed club the Boston Red Stockings until 1877. That team was one of the founding members of the National League in 1876 and would later change to the Boston Braves, and now exist as the Atlanta Braves. They wear red on their uniform as an reference to their origins. It is the oldest professional baseball club in the US. Harry Wright would later manage the Providence Grays and the Philadelphia Quakers (today the Phillies).
Harry Wright's baseball career stretched from the sport's origins in New York to the establishment of professional baseball and the formation of the National League. Historian Bill James said of Wright, "Harry didn’t play in the major leagues; he just invented them.” He also organized a baseball tour of England which included an exhibition match between Boston Red Stockings and Philadelphia Athletics at Lords Cricket Ground.
Harry's brother George was a star on both his Cincinnati and Boston teams--one of the greatest shortstops of his time. He settled in Boston and founded the Wright & Ditson Sporting Goods company. It still exists today. He also played cricket at the Longwood Cricket Club. He became interested in golf and created America's second public golf course called Franklin Park in Boston. He also donated land to the city which was turned into another golf course that bears his name today: The George Wright Golf Course.
George Wright had two sons who became champion tennis players. Beals Wright won the 1904 Singles and Double's Olympic gold medals in tennis, and in 1905 won the US Open. His brother Irving Wright was a two-time mixed doubles champion at the US Open. George Wright's younger brother Sam Wright Jr., Samuel Wright Sr.'s youngest son, was also a professional baseball player for 4 teams.
With a family sporting prowess that stretched across three generations, a legacy that is still seen today in at least four major cities, and with significant impact on the sports of baseball, cricket, golf, and tennis, no family has impacted the American sports landscape like the Wrights have. And it started with a cricketer from Sheffield who came to New York like millions of others in search of a new life.