Born in Exeter, England, and raised on cricket, Chadwick was one of the prime movers in the rise of baseball to its unprecedented popularity at the turn of the 20th century. A keen amateur statistician and professional writer, he helped sculpt the public perception of the game, as well as providing the basis for the records of team's and player's achievements in the form of baseball statistics.
Chadwick edited The Beadle Baseball Player, the first baseball guide on public sale, as well as the Spalding and Reach annual guides for a number of years and in this capacity promoted the game and influenced the then-infant discipline of sports journalism. He also served on baseball rules committees and influenced the game itself.
In 1867 he accompanied the National Base Ball Club of Washington D.C. on their inaugural national tour, as their official scorer, and in 1874 was instrumental in organising a similar tour of England, which included games of both baseball and cricket. In his role as journalist, he campaigned against the detrimental effects on the game of both alcohol and gambling.
He was instrumental in the first demonstration that rotation imparted while throwing could cause a ball to curve, which took place at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn in August of 1870. At Chadwick's instigation two stakes were placed 20 feet apart in a line between the pitcher and batter's boxes. A young pitcher named Fred Goldsmith threw a ball to the right of the first stake and to the left of the second.
Goldsmith would go to pitch for the New Havens (1875) London Tecumsehs (1876) and the Tecumsehs after they joined the fledgling International Association (1877-78), the National League's Troy Trojans (1879), the Chicago White Stockings (1880-1884), also of the National League and the Baltimore Orioles (1884) of the American Association.
He is credited with devising the baseball box score (which he adapted from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events, and for devising such statistical measures as batting average and earned run average.
The following description of a game was written by Henry Chadwick and appeared in his Base Ball Memoranda. It is typical of his style of sports journalism, and that of his time:
- A Base Ball tourney had been held in Chicago on July 4, 1867, in which the Excelsiors of that city and the Forest City Club, of Rockford, had been the leading contestants. The former had defeated the Forest City nine in two games, by the very close scores of 45-41 in one, and 28-25 in another, when the Forest Citys were invited to meet the Nationals at Chicago on July 25th, a day which proved the most notable of the tour. The contest took place at Dexter Park, before a vast crowd of spectators, the majority of whom looked to see the Nationals have almost a walk-over. In the game A. G. Spalding was pitcher and Ross Barnes shortstop for the Forest City nine; these two afterwards becoming famous as star players of the Boston professional team of the early seventies. Williams was pitcher for the Nationals and Frank Norton catcher. The Nationals took the lead in the first innings by 3 to 2; but in the next two innings they added but five runs to their score, while the Forest Citys added thirteen to theirs, thereby taking the lead by a score of fifteen to eight, to the great surprise of the crowd and the delight of the Rockfords. The Nationals tried hard to recover the lost ground. The final result, however, was the success of the Forest Citys by a score of 29 to 23 in a nine innings game, twice interrupted by rain.
Chadwick was the younger half brother of Sir Edwin Chadwick, England's sanitary philosopher who developed environmental measures and laws designed to counteract the effects of the Industrial Revolution.
- Tygiel, Jules. Past Time.