In 1970, two University of Massachusetts
professors rediscovered Griffith’s work
and declared him “America’s First Sport
Psychologist.” Today, the Association for the
Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology
has an annual award named in his honor.
special [baseball] skills …. He should
make [the will to win] a necessary
feature of every practice period and
of every game he plays. He must
reduce it to a habit.” Still, none of his
recommendations were implemented.
By July 26, the Cubs were languishing
in fourth place. Wrigley fired Grimm
and replaced him with the catcher,
Hartnett, for the rest of the season. At
first, Griffith had reason to hope that
Hartnett would be more amenable to
his ideas and they met to discuss each
player from a psychological standpoint.
But soon Griffith came into conflict with
Hartnett as well. Disparaging Hartnett’s
traditional baseball mindset, Griffith
wrote that “to appeal to instinct or to
heredity is … a lazy, unimaginative
and ignorant man’s way of evading the
demands of his job.”
Despite Griffith’s skepticism,
Hartnett’s leadership seemed to
work: The Cubs began to climb in the
standings during September, taking
over first place on a game-ending home
run by Hartnett himself. The Cubs won
the National League, but were quickly
downed by the New York Yankees in the
After the season was over, Griffith
submitted to Wrigley a 183-page report
on the team’s campaign. Griffith wrote
that Hartnett “was not at all a smart man.
... He [doesn’t] have the ability to adapt
himself to any other style of training and
coaching but that with which he had been
familiar throughout his playing career.”
Even if Wrigley had been inclined to
fire Hartnett, the catcher’s late-season
heroics had made him a fan favorite,
and so he stayed on for the 1939
season. Griffith, too, worked for the
Cubs in 1939, though only part time.
He submitted just four short reports,
but noted in one that, “as far as the
team and its management is concerned,
we have met not only with failure but
with a large amount of suspicion and
distrust.” The Cubs finished fourth that
Christopher D. Green, PhD, is a professor
of psychology at York University in
Toronto. Katharine S. Milar, PhD, of
Earlham College is historical editor of
• Green, C.D. (2003) Psychology strikes out: Coleman R. Griffith
and the Chicago Cubs. History of Psychology, 6, 267–283. DOI:
• Green, C.D. (2006). Coleman Griffith: “Adopted” father of sport
psychology. In L. Benjamin, D. Dewsbury, & M. Wertheimer (Eds.).
Portraits of pioneers in psychology (vol. 6). Washington D.C.: APA &
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
• Griffith, C.R. (1928). Psychology and athletics: A general survey
for athletes and coaches. New York: Scribner’s.
• Kroll, W., & Lewis, G. (1978). America’s first sport psychologist. In
W. F. Straub (Ed.), Sport psychology: An analysis of athlete behavior
(pp. 16–19). Ithaca, NY: Mouvement (Original work published 1970).