Nicholas Apollonio

This article was written by Charlie Bevis

As the fourth president of the Boston Base Ball Association, Nicholas Apollonio navigated the corporation and its baseball team through the turbulent times of the 1874 and 1875 seasons in the National Association and the initial 1876 season in the National League.

Nicholas Taylor Apollonio was born in 1843 in New York City, the son of Italian immigrant Nicholas Alessandro Apollonio and English-born Sarah Gibbs.1 The family soon relocated to Boston, where Apollonio’s father served as the Boston city registrar from 1854 to 1891.2 Apollonio married Georgianna Pingree in Boston on May 5, 1864.3 He supported their growing family by working as a bookkeeper for Thomas Flint & Company, a hardware broker.4

In 1872 Apollonio participated in meetings of interested followers of the Boston baseball team fielded by Boston Base Ball Association (aka the Boston Base Ball Club, not to be confused with the stock-company Boston Base Ball Association that ran the team) to help seek out new season-ticket holders (aka members) as one way to “devise means of relieving the Boston Base Ball Association from its present financial embarrassment and place it on a secure footing for the ensuing year.”5 Apollonio was elected treasurer of the member group, “but he positively declined serving,” according to the Boston Globe account of the meeting.6 Apollonio must have been instrumental in recruiting new members, since he was elected president of the Boston Base Ball Association for the 1874 season.7

Apollonio served three years as Association president, overseeing the organization through some turbulent times. Although the baseball team’s trip to England in 1874 caused a financial shortfall, Apollonio was re-elected as president for the 1875 season.8 While the team won a fourth consecutive pennant in 1875, its ace pitcher, Al Spalding, and three other ballplayers announced in July that they had contracted to play with Chicago in 1876 rather than remain with the Boston team. Despite the embarrassment, Apollonio was re-elected president for the 1876 season, since the Association directors didn’t hold him accountable for the defections, as Spalding acknowledged that his departure was “a foregone conclusion which no action of the directors could have prevented.”9

However, the Association directors were not so forgiving when Apollonio signed Joe Borden, an alleged “phenomenon” as a pitcher, to replace Spalding.10 In the inaugural year of the National League in 1876, the Boston team, with Borden as a flop in the pitcher’s box, stumbled to a fourth-place finish behind pennant-winning Chicago, which had Spalding in the box. The directors held Apollonio responsible for “the hiring of incompetent players,” especially “the mistake made by securing Borden as pitcher, who had contributed more to the defeat of the nine during the past season than any other player.”11 Apollonio was deposed as president in December 1876, when, while he was absent from Boston to attend the National League meeting in Cleveland, the directors of the Boston Base Ball Association did not re-elect him as president.12 Later that month Arthur Soden was elected president, a post he held for the next three decades.

Apollonio settled into life beyond professional baseball. By 1880, his family, which included six children, lived in a large house on Albion Street in then-suburban Dorchester.13 For more 30 years, Apollonio worked as the accountant for the Great Falls Manufacturing Company, whose corporate office was in Boston and its textile mills in Somersworth, New Hampshire.14 By 1900 he and his wife were living in an opulent house in the upper-middle-class suburb of Winchester.15 Apollonio died in Winchester on April 1, 1911, and his remains were interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.16

Notes

1 Birth information from death records of Winchester, Massachusetts, for 1911, page 479; no birth record can be located.

2 Obituary of Nicholas A. Apollonio, Boston Daily Advertiser, October 31, 1891.

3 Marriage records in the Massachusetts State Archives for 1864 (Volume 173, Page 49).

4 Boston City Directory, 1865, 1870, 1875.

5 Boston Globe, December 9, 1872.

6 Boston Globe, December 16, 1872.

7 Boston Daily Advertiser, December 15, 1873.

8 Boston Daily Advertiser, December 3, 1874.

9 Boston Daily Advertiser, December 16, 1875.

10 Boston Globe, September 6, 1875.

11 Boston Daily Advertiser, December 28, 1876.

12 New York Clipper, December 23, 1876.

13 Federal census records for 1880 for Wards 20-22 of Boston in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

14 Obituary of Nicholas T. Apollonio, Winchester Star, April 7, 1911.

15 Federal census records for 1900 for Winchester in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

16 Death records of Winchester, Massachusetts, for 1911, page 479.