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19th Century Baseball Teams: Detroit Wolverines

Detroit wolverines are the 19th century baseball team that played in the national league during the period of 1881 – 1888.  It was based in the city of Detroit in Michigan.  They won 426 games, lost 437 games in total before they disbanded  and took their lone remnant in 1887.

The team was founded by the then Detroit William G. Thompson. The wolverines played their first game in a major league baseball on 2nd may 1881 in Detroit.  This was in front of fans numbering 1286.  At the time, their home field was known as Recreation Park and consisted of wooden grandstand which was located between Willis Avenue and Brady Street.

This stadium was actually demolished in 1894 though its location is currently indicated by historical marker in what once stood as the field.

Even though they folded after playing only eight seasons, wolverines occupied a very important place in the baseball history. In the year 1885, the new comer, Frederick Kumball Stearns, started spending heavily in their attempt to create a super team. This was by buying high priced players. Most notably, he bought the whole Buffalo Bisons franchise during that August.  This was in a move to secure services of  the team’s stars Jack Rowe, Deacon White, Dan Brouthers and Hardy Richardson who were referred to as the Big Four. The strategy met resistance from fellow owners who went on and changed league rules which governed splitting of gate receipts. The move reduced the visiting team’s maximum share to just $125 a game.

The home game receipts of wolverines were not sufficient to help them sustain the payroll which forced Stearns to sell his stars to some other clubs.

Wolverine’s most successful season was in 1887 in which they were crowned champions of national league with 79 wins and 45 losses record. After that season, they went on to defeat St. Louis Browns who were the champions of rival American Association. This was in a series of exhibition matches in which they won ten of the 15 games that were played. The games were the predecessor of the now popular World Series  which started way back in 1903.



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